Amylase Test-Definition,Uses and Preparation
Last Updated on March 8, 2020 by Ephraim Iyodo
What is an Amylase test?
An amylase test measures the amount of amylase in your blood or urine. Amylase is an enzyme, or special protein, that helps you digest food. Most of your amylase is made in the pancreas and salivary glands. A small amount of amylase in your blood and urine is normal. A larger or smaller amount may mean that you have a disorder of the pancreas, an infection, alcoholism, or another medical condition.
An amylase blood test measures the amount of amylase in a person’s blood. Abnormal levels of amylase may indicate pancreatitis or another problem with the pancreas.
What is Amylase test used for?
An amylase blood test is used to diagnose or monitor a problem with your pancreas, including pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. An amylase urine test may be ordered along with or after an amylase blood test. Urine amylase results can help diagnose pancreatic and salivary gland disorders. One or both types of tests may be used to help monitor amylase levels in people who are being treated for pancreatic or other disorders.
A variety of medical conditions can affect amylase levels in the blood.
The primary producers of amylase in the body are the pancreas and the salivary glands in the mouth. Approximately 40 percent of the amylase in the blood comes from the pancreas, which means that amylase blood tests can help diagnose conditions that affect the pancreas.
Doctors use amylase blood tests to diagnose or monitor the following conditions:
Doctors often use amylase blood tests to diagnose or monitor patients with acute pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be acute, which means that a person has a short-term condition, or chronic, which means that the inflammation is long-term or recurrent.
Pancreatitis can cause severe abdominal pain and swelling. Other symptoms include:
- nausea or vomiting
- upset stomach
- jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
To help diagnose pancreatitis, a doctor may order an amylase blood test. Abnormally high or low levels of amylase in the blood can be a sign that a person has pancreatitis.
Other tests for pancreatitis may include:
- Imagining tests, such as a CT scan, MRI scan, or ultrasound. These tests create images of the inside of the body, allowing a doctor to look for signs of inflammation and determine its severity.
- Lipase blood tests. The pancreas also produces a digestive enzyme called lipase. Abnormal levels of lipase can also be a sign of pancreatitis.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there is an association between chronic pancreatitis and an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, especially among smokers. However, ACS also notes that most individuals with pancreatitis do not get pancreatic cancer.
Amylase and lipase tests can be used to diagnose or monitor tumors and cancers that affect the pancreas.
Some case studies have shown a potential link between higher than normal levels of amylase, especially between saliva and ovarian tumors.
Two case studies suggest that there may be an association between high amylase levels in the blood and lung cancer. Therefore, checking a person’s amylase levels may help doctors diagnose and monitor lung cancer
Conditions and factors that may affect amylase levels in the blood include:
- Gallbladder attack
Pancreatic cysts or sores
Gastrointestinal or digestive problems
Recently had a kidney transplant.
Mumps is an infection of the salivary glands
For an amylase urine test, you will be given instructions to provide a “clean catch” sample. The clean catch method includes the following steps:
- Wash your hands
- Clean your genital area with a cleansing pad given to you by your provider. Men should wipe the tip of their penis. Women should open their labia and clean from front to back.
- Start to urinate into the toilet.
- Move the collection container under your urine stream.
- Collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container, which should have markings to indicate the amounts.
- Finish urinating into the toilet.
- Return the sample container as instructed by your health care provider.
Your health care provider may request that you collect all your urine during a 24-hour period. For this test, your health care provider or laboratory will give you a container and specific instructions on how to collect your samples at home. Be sure to follow all instructions carefully. This 24-hour urine sample test is used because the amounts of substances in urine, including amylase, can vary throughout the day. So collecting several samples in a day may give a more accurate picture of your urine content.
If your results show an abnormal level of amylase in your blood or urine, it may mean you have a disorder of the pancreas or other medical condition.
Preparation for Amylase Test
It is not usually necessary to fast or make any specific preparations before having an amylase blood test.
However, some medications can increase amylase levels, which can make the test results difficult to interpret. A doctor may recommend temporarily stopping certain medicines before the test, so it is essential to inform them of any current medications or supplements.
The amylase blood test is a routine blood test. A healthcare professional will clean a small area of the person’s skin and then insert a needle to draw a sample of blood. This procedure usually only takes a few minutes. They will then send the sample to a laboratory for analysis.People should also avoid consuming alcohol before the test.
High levels of amylase may indicate:
- Acute pancreatitis, a sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas. When treated promptly, it usually gets better within a few days.
- A blockage in the pancreas
- Pancreatic cancer
Low levels of amylase can indicate:
- Chronic pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that gets worse over time and can lead to permanent damage. Chronic pancreatitis is most often caused by heavy alcohol use.
- Liver disease
- Cystic fibrosis