Amylase Test

Amylase is an enzyme, which is produced by the pancreas; it helps in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Amylase is also produced by the salivary glands.

Low levels of amylase are usually present in the urine and the blood; changes to these levels may indicate health problems, usually relating to the pancreas.

What is the test used for?

The amylase test is used to measure the quantity of amylase in the urine and the blood; a blood test measures the levels of amylase in the blood and a 24 hour urine sample test measures the levels of amylase in the urine.

An amylase test is usually used in the diagnosis of illnesses which affect the pancreas, including pancreatitis.

A doctor will usually recommend an amylase test when a patient has symptoms of a pancreatic condition; these include high temperature, nausea, loss of appetite and severe pain in the abdomen.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by collecting and analysing a sample of blood, which is taken from a vein in the arm (usually doctors use the veins on the inside of the elbow as these are usually more prominent). A needle is inserted into a vein and the blood is collected in a syringe. The sample is then bottled, sealed, labelled with the patient’s name and then sent away to the laboratory.

What do the results mean?

Very high levels of amylase (4-6 times higher than the ’normal’ limit) are usually caused by acute pancreatitis; levels will rise sharply very soon after an accident or injury that has affected the pancreas. Once treatment has been administered, the levels will decrease again.

Chronic pancreatitis often causes amylase levels to increase slightly; however, levels may decrease as the pancreas becomes increasingly damaged. Alcoholism may also contribute to chronic pancreatitis.

High amylase levels may also indicate cancer of the pancreas, ovaries or lungs, problems with the gall bladder or an obstruction in the pancreatic duct.

If levels of amylase are lower than usual, this may indicate that the cells in the pancreas which produce the amylase may be damaged.

Specific Blood Tests

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