Amylase Test – High, Normal, Low

A high amylase level in the blood may indicate the presence of a condition affecting the pancreas.

  • In acute pancreatitis, amylase in the blood often increases to 4 to 6 times higher than the highest reference value, sometimes called the upper limit of normal.  The increase occurs within 4 to 8 hours of injury to the pancreas and generally remains elevated until the cause is successfully treated.  Then the amylase values will return to normal in a few days.
  • In chronic pancreatitis, amylase levels initially will be moderately elevated but often decrease over time with progressive pancreas damage. In this case, levels returning to normal may not indicate that the source of damage has been resolved. The magnitude of increase in amylase level does not indicate severity of pancreatic disease.

Amylase levels may also be significantly increased in people with pancreatic duct obstruction and pancreatic cancers.In general, urine amylase levels rise in proportion to blood amylase levels and will stay elevated for several days after blood levels have returned to normal.

An increased level of amylase in peritoneal fluid can occur in acute pancreatitis but may also occur in other abdominal disorders, such as obstructed intestine or decreased blood flow to the intestines (infarct).

A low amylase level in blood and urine in a person with pancreatitis symptoms may indicate permanent damage to the amylase-producing cells in the pancreas. Decreased levels can also be due to kidney disease and toxemia of pregnancy.

Increased blood amylase levels with normal to low urine amylase levels may indicate the presence of a macroamylase, a benign complex of amylase and other proteins that accumulates in the blood.

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