High or low amylase: what it is and what it means

Amylase is an enzyme produced by the pancreas and salivary glands, which acts on the digestion of starch and glycogen contained in food. Generally, the serum amylase test is used to help diagnose diseases in the pancreas, such as acute pancreatitis, for example, or other problems that can alter the functioning of this organ, and are usually ordered together with the dosage of the lipase.

In addition, the doctor may also order a urine amylase test that helps assess kidney function and can be used during kidney failure treatment to assess the effectiveness of the treatment.

Amylase test results

The results of the amylase test help to diagnose health problems in the pancreas and salivary glands, being especially used to diagnose acute pancreatitis, since the amylase values ​​in the blood greatly increase in the first 12 hours of problems in the pancreas.

High amylase

Increased levels of amylase in the blood may be altered due to impairment of the salivary gland, due to inflammation such as mumps, or due to problems related to the pancreas, as in the case of acute and chronic pancreatitis. In addition, high amylase may be due to:

  • Biliary tract diseases, such as cholecystitis;
  • Peptic ulcer;
  • Pancreatic cancer;
  • Obstruction of pancreatic ducts;
  • Viral hepatitis;
  • Ectopic pregnancy;
  • Renal insufficiency;
  • Burns;
  • Use of some medications, such as oral contraceptives, valproic acid, metronidazole and corticosteroids.

In most cases of pancreatitis, amylase levels in the blood are 6 times higher than the reference value, however this is not related to the severity of the pancreatic injury. Amylase levels usually increase in 2 to 12 hours and return to normal within 4 days. In spite of this, in some cases of pancreatitis, there is no great increase or no increase in the concentration of amylase, so it is important to measure lipase to check the function and the possibility of pancreatic disease. Understand what lipase is and how to understand its result.

Low amylase

The decrease in amylase levels is more frequent in hospitalized patients, especially in those with glucose administration. In such cases, it is recommended to wait up to 2 hours for amylase dosing to be performed and the result is reliable.

In addition, the low amount of amylase can be a sign of permanent damage to the cells responsible for the production of amylase and, therefore, can be indicative of chronic pancreatitis, and should be confirmed through other laboratory tests.

Amylase reference value

The reference value of amylase varies according to the laboratory and technique used to perform the exam, which can be between 30 to 118 U / L of blood in people under 60 years old and up to 151 U / L of blood for people over 60 years.

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