Albumin is an important protein made by the liver and released continuously into the blood. One of albumin’s main functions is to bind with other substances in the blood to help them get where they need to go. For example, albumin binds to thyroid hormone and certain drugs and nutrients, allowing their stable transport through the blood to their destination. Albumin molecules also act like tiny sponges inside blood vessels, keeping fluid inside rather than allowing it to leak out. For this reason, albumin may sometimes be given as an intravenous medicine to raise blood pressure in hospitalized people.
Albumin is often checked routinely by doctors in a liver function test panel. Severe liver disease can cause low albumin levels, as the liver loses its ability to make enough albumin. Severe malnutrition also causes low albumin. However, many illnesses can cause a temporary drop in albumin levels, and most people with a slightly low albumin on a blood test do not have liver disease or any nutritional problem.
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