The protein in your body serves many purposes from fluid balance and pH balance to keeping your immune system healthy. Normally, your blood contains very small amounts of protein. If the amounts of protein in your blood are high, it can indicate an underlying condition that warrants immediate medical attention.
Your blood contains two classes of proteins: albumin and globulin. The main purpose of albumin is to keep fluid from leaking out of blood vessels. The globulin category contains enzymes, antibodies and more than 500 different types of proteins. When you have your blood protein tested, you may receive two results: total protein and A/G ratio. As the name indicates, total protein measures the sum of all of the proteins in your blood. Normally, total protein ranges from 6.0 to 8.3 grams per deciliter. The A/G ratio measures the amount of albumin compared to globulin. Normally, the A/G ratio is just over 1. Different conditions can change the amount of albumin and/or globulin in the blood, thus changing the A/G ratio. This can give your doctor important clues about the cause of the increased blood protein levels.
Because several conditions can cause high protein in the blood, the symptoms may vary. Possible symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, prolonged fever, decreased appetite, tingling or numbness in the extremities, dizziness and unexplained weight loss. High blood protein may also cause orthostatic hypotension, which is a drop in blood pressure when you sit up or stand.
The causes of high protein in the blood can range from mild to severe. High blood protein can be a sign of a condition that’s not so serious, like mild dehydration. High blood protein may also indicate inflammation or infection in the liver, kidney disease, HIV or AIDS, multiple myeloma or amyloidosis – the buildup of proteins in your organs. If a blood test shows high levels of protein, more testing is necessary to make a specific diagnosis.
The amount of protein you eat has nothing to do with the amount of protein in your blood. A high-protein diet will not lead to increased blood protein. However, if you have kidney problems that cause increased blood protein levels, your doctor may recommend that you reduce the amount of protein you eat. The exact treatment will depend on the cause of the high blood protein. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations closely.
Lindsay Boyers has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.