What is hypoalbuminemia?

Hypoalbuminemia is a deficit of albumin in the blood, more often seen in elderly patients. Albumin is a protein that is found in the blood. Hypoalbuminemia is a medical condition where levels of albumin in blood serum are abnormally low. It is a specific form of hypoproteinemia.

Albumin is a major protein in the human body, making up about 60% of total human plasma protein by mass. Many hormones, drugs, and other molecules are mostly bound to albumin in the bloodstream and must be released before becoming biologically active.

Albumin is synthesized in the liver , and low serum albumin may be indicative of liver failure or diseases such as cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis. Hypoalbuminemia can also present as part of the nephrotic syndrome, in which protein is lost in the urine due to kidney damage. Low albumin levels can be an indicator of chronic malnutrition.

Hypoalbuminemia may cause generalized edema (swelling) via a decrease in oncotic pressure.

The serum albumin level is part of a standard panel of liver function tests . Levels below 3.5 grams per deciliter are generally considered low.

There are many causes of low serum albumin levels . These causes may include:

Poor nutritional state - you haven't been eating enough protein, or you may be losing protein, usually during a period of illness

Increased excretion (or loss) of albumin from your body from:
Renal ( kidney ) dysfunction - your kidneys may not work well due to any number of conditions. They may be leaking albumin in the urine , causing hypoalbuminemia
You may have some form of liver disease, such as hepatitis , or cancer in your liver, which may have spread from elsewhere in your body that causes you to lose albumin, thus resulting in hypoalbuminemia.

Certain heart conditions - such as congestive heart failure , or pericarditis - may cause you to have low albumin levels in your blood.

Problems with your stomach - including inflammatory bowel disease, or lymphoma , can cause hypoalbuminemia

Other forms of cancer or conditions- such as sarcoma or amyloidosis - can cause hypoalbuminemia

Side effects from medications can cause hypoalbuminemia
Infections - such as tuberculosis - can cause hypoalbuminemia

What are some symptoms and side effects of hypoalbuminemia to look for?

You may not have any symptoms, unless your blood albumin levels are significantly lowered. In this case, you may not be eating very well. You may have swelling that is all over your body, or swelling in one part of your body (such as your legs)
You may have muscle weakness , fatigue, or cramps
You may have a poor appetite, and may not be eating well. Even people who take in a lot of protein in their diet may still have low albumin levels in their blood.
If you have liver problems that may have caused your hypoalbuminemia, you may notice that your abdomen is swollen with fluid (called, ascites ).