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What is Zinc Serum test?

Zinc is an important mineral that your body needs to maintain healthy immune function. It also helps manage protein synthesis, cell growth and carbohydrate metabolism. 

Most of our daily recommended requirement of this mineral can be obtained from food. Zinc is found naturally in oysters, crabs, lobsters, red meat, poultry, beans, whole grains, nuts, and dairy products. Once taken up from the gut, zinc quickly gets distributed to all tissues of the body, primarily to skeletal muscles and bones. However, it cannot be stored anywhere in the body. Thus, if a person is not taking enough zinc (vegetarian diet lacks in zinc) or if the body starts to need more zinc than what is gained from food (such as in alcoholics and those who get burns), it may lead to zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency may also occur if zinc is not absorbed from the food properly. It leads to symptoms such as loss of immune function, loss of appetite and growth retardation. On the flip side, excessive consumption of zinc may lead to toxicity.

A zinc serum test checks for the levels of zinc in your body to assess if you have zinc deficiency or toxicity.

  1. Why is Zinc Serum test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a Zinc Serum test?
  3. How is a Zinc Serum test performed?
  4. What do Zinc Serum test results mean?

Your healthcare provider may order a zinc serum test if he suspects that you have zinc deficiency. The symptoms of zinc deficiency are as follows:

As these symptoms are non-specific, your healthcare provider will also suggest other medical examinations for proper diagnosis.

Zinc deficiency can be treated with the help of zinc supplements. In such cases, a doctor may order a zinc serum test to determine the efficacy of the treatment.

A zinc serum test is also ordered for patients who show the following symptoms of zinc toxicity. 

Symptoms of acute zinc toxicity:

Effects of chronic zinc toxicity:

  • Low copper status
  • Altered iron function
  • Reduced immune function
  • Reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins

You do not need any special preparation for this test. Though your doctor may ask you to fast before the test as the serum zinc content decreases after a meal. 

Inform your healthcare provider if you are consuming any medicines, vitamins or supplements as these may interfere with the test results. He/she may ask you to change the course of or stop using certain medicines. Do not discontinue any medicine until your doctor advises you to. 

A lab technician or doctor will draw a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. The collected sample will be placed in the bottle labelled with your name and date of collection of sample.

When the needle is inserted into the arm, you may feel a slight prick. It may also cause a mild bruising which will heal in about a day.

Since this test is performed on serum (the liquid part of blood instead of whole blood), soon as the sample reaches the lab, the serum will be separated from the clot with the help of centrifugation.

Once the test is complete, you can collect the results and discuss it with your healthcare provider.

Normal results:

Healthy people usually have 0.66-1.10 mcg/mL of zinc in their serum.

If your zinc levels fall in the normal range, there is no need for medical involvement.

Abnormal results:

Abnormal zinc levels may indicate zinc deficiency or infections. Zinc deficiency may be due to poor absorption or poor eating habits. Low zinc levels may also be seen in pregnancy.

Zinc and albumin are transported as a complex in the body. It is preferable to interpret zinc test results along with albumin test results. For instance, low zinc with normal albumin may indicate a zinc deficiency, but low zinc along with low albumin may indicate a response to infection.

In some instances, for example in burn patients, the levels of zinc may be as low as 0.4 mcg/mL. Zinc supplements are beneficial in such cases.

High levels of zinc are rare as excess zinc is generally eliminated from the body through urine or faeces. Consumption of excessive zinc supplements can lead to zinc toxicity. 

If your results are not within the reference range, consult your doctor. Depending on the test results, they will suggest the appropriate medical treatment.

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. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C. American Association for Clinical Chemistry; Zinc
  2. National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements [internet]: Bethesda (MA), US. US Department of Health and Human Services Zinc
  3. National Health Service [internet]. UK; Blood Tests
  4. Children's Minnesota [internet]. Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. US; Zinc, Blood
  5. ARUP Labs [Internet]. University of Utah. Salt Lake city. Utah. US; Zinc, Serum or Plasma
  6. Linus Pauling Institute. Micro nutrient Information Center: Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon; Zinc
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