Hypoalbuminemia is a condition characterized by low levels of protein albumin in the bloodstream.

Your body needs 3.5 to 5.9 grams of albumin per deciliter (g/dL) depending on your age.

In the absence of albumin, substances cannot escape from your blood vessels.

It can also be difficult for important substances to travel throughout your body if you don’t have enough albumin.

Hypoalbuminemia symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Legs or face edema (fluid buildup)
  • Skin that is rougher or drier than usual
  • Hair loss
  • Yeast infection
  • Breathing problems
  • Feeling fatigued or weak
  • Heartbeat that is irregular
  • Weight gain that is abnormal
  • I don’t have much appetite
  • The diarrheal disease
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Vomiting

When hypoalbuminemia is caused by a poor diet, your symptoms may develop over time. If hypoalbuminemia is caused by a severe burn, you may notice some of these symptoms immediately.

Risk factors and causes

Inflammation throughout your body, such as sepsis or surgery, can cause hypoalbuminemia.

Lack of protein or calories in your diet usually causes hypoalbuminemia.

It can also be caused by:

  • Burned severely
  • Deficiency in vitamins
  • An unbalanced diet and malnutrition
  • Your stomach is not able to absorb nutrients properly
  • In the hospital after surgery, you will receive intravenous fluids (IVs)

Other conditions that can cause it include:

  • Insulin resistance is a condition in which your body cannot produce enough insulin
  • In hyperthyroidism, your thyroid gland produces too much hormone
  • Problems with the heart, including heart failure
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Hepatitis C
  • Diabetic nephropathy
  • Deficiency of oxygen.

It is also considered a risk factor for certain diseases. Having hypoalbuminemia while having another condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, can result in complications.

Hypoalbuminemia diagnosis

A complete blood test measures your albumin level. A serum albumin test uses a blood sample to analyze your albumin levels in a lab.

A doctor may also measure the amount of albumin in your urine. Kidney damage can cause albumin to leak into your urine.

C-reactive protein blood tests are particularly useful for diagnosing hypoalbuminemia because they can show your doctor how much inflammation is occurring in your body. Inflammation is one of the most important indicators of hypoalbuminemia.

Treatment options

It is often possible to treat hypoalbuminemia by bringing your albumin levels back to normal.

If a lack of nutrition is causing your condition, your doctor may prescribe protein-rich foods to boost your albumin levels, such as nuts, eggs, and dairy products.

You may need to drink less or stop drinking alcohol if you drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol can lower your blood protein levels and worsen your symptoms.

It is possible to reduce your symptoms if you have kidney disease by taking high blood pressure medications that prevent you from passing albumin through your urine.

Complications that may arise

Hypoalbuminemia can put you at risk of developing other conditions, including:

  • pneumonia
  • pleural effusion, which occurs when fluid builds up around your lungs
  • ascites, which occurs when fluid builds up in your abdominal area
  • atrophy, which is a significant weakening of the muscles

Hypoalbuminemia can be especially problematic if discovered after surgery or after you are admitted to the emergency room. Untreated hypoalbuminemia can greatly increase your risk of injury or life-threatening illness.

From a perspective

A condition that causes your albumin levels to drop should be treated as soon as possible to maintain your overall health. Hypoalbuminemia can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

Mortality associated with hypoalbuminemia

The presence of hypoalbuminemia in the elderly is a prognostic factor for mortality, regardless of whether they reside in a community or are hospitalized or institutionalized.

Inflammation and, in particular, high levels of cytokines (IL-6 and TNF-alpha), are two of the main factors influencing hypoalbuminemia during acute illness.

The risk of post-surgical complications, particularly infection, is higher in older patients with hip fractures who have albumin levels below 38 g/L.