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What is an Amylase test? 

An amylase test measures the levels of the enzyme amylase in blood. Amylase is mainly produced by salivary glands and pancreas and it helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates and starch into simple sugars. These simple sugars are then converted into glucose, which helps in proper functioning of the body. 

Usually, blood or urine contains a low amount of amylase, these levels increase due to an injury, inflammation or blockage in salivary glands or pancreas. High levels of amylase can be seen in the blood for only a short time, but it can remain high in the urine for several days. Certain medicines; alcohol; infections; cancer; or diseases,  such as pancreatic disorder, can increase the amylase levels.

Amylase test helps to identify the conditions that affect salivary glands and pancreas, thereby altering amylase levels.

The test is also known as serum amylase test.

  1. Why is an Amylase test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for an Amylase test?
  3. How is an Amylase test performed?
  4. What do Amylase test results indicate?

An amylase test is most often used to diagnose

This test can also be advised when a person experiences the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Severe upper abdominal pain, which radiates to the back and aggravates on eating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eye)
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Steatorrhoea (loose, fatty and foul-smelling stools)

Inform your doctor about your current medication or supplements if you are on any. The doctor can advise you to stop certain medications that can alter test results, e.g., birth control pills, asparaginase, cholinergic medicines, aspirin, thiazide diuretics, and opiates such as codeine.

Do not eat or drink anything for about two hours prior to the test. Do not exercise, smoke or drink alcohol before the test.

It is a simple test in which a  blood sample will be drawn from the vein in your arm. Your healthcare provider will clean the needle injection site with alcohol and insert a needle through the skin into the vein, to withdraw a blood sample. The sample is then sent to a lab for testing. Once the needle is taken out the injection site should be pressed firmly, and a cotton ball or a gauze pad should be placed over the area to stop bleeding and prevent infection. 

Results of an amylase test can vary depending upon the age, gender, method used and health history of the person. Your doctor will provide the correct interpretation of results.

Normal results: Blood Amylase levels within the range of 30-110 units per litre (U/L)are considered to be normal.

Abnormal results: Amylase levels can be higher in the following conditions:

  • Sudden inflammation of the pancreas (acute pancreatitis)
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Cancers of the pancreas, breast, colon, ovary or lung
  • Pancreatic sore
  • Pancreatic pseudocysts (cyst(s) in the pancreas)
  • Ascites (swelling in the abdomen)
  • Macroamylasemia (a noncancerous benign condition in which there is presence of macroamylase in your blood)
  • Peptic ulcer (perforated ulcer)
  • Intestinal infarction (death of intestinal tissues)
  • Blockage in the intestines
  • Appendicitis
  • Ruptured ectopic pregnancy
  • Acute cholecystitis (sudden swelling of the gallbladder)
  • Swelling in the salivary glands
  • Peritonitis (swelling of the lining of your abdomen)
  • Burns
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Kidney problems
  • Morphine usage
  • Postoperative effect
  • Alcohol use
  • Infection of the salivary glands (mumps)
  • Prostate tumour
  • Eating disorders (bulimia or anorexia nervosa)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Higher levels of triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia)

Low amylase levels can be due to the following reasons:

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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References

  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System; Blood Test: Amylase
  2. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; Amylase (Blood)
  3. HealthlinkBC [internet] British Columbia; Amylase
  4. PennStateHarshey [internet] Milton S. Harshey Medical Center; Chronic pancreatitis
  5. Crockett SD. American Gastroenterological Association Institute Guideline on Initial Management of Acute Pancreatitis. Gastroenterology. 2018 Mar;154(4):1096-1101. PMID: 29409760
  6. Meisenberg G, Simmons WH. Digestive enzymes. In: Meisesnberg G, Simmons WH, eds. Principles of Medical Biochemistry. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 20.
  7. Forsmark CE. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 144.