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What are globulins?

Find out everything you need to know about globulins and what they can tell you about your health.

Globulins are a family of globular (round-shaped) proteins in the blood with a variety of functions. Your levels of globulin can help to identify conditions that affect the liver, kidneys, or immune system.

In this article, we cover:

What are globulins?

Globulins are a group of proteins in the blood made by the liver and the immune system. 

They can be divided into three broad types: 

  • Alpha (1 and 2)
  • Beta
  • Gamma

Many alpha and beta globulins are transport proteins, which means they carry substances like hormones, fats, or minerals. Some also work as enzymes to speed up chemical reactions. 

Gamma globulins have a vital role in natural and acquired immunity to infection. The most significant gamma globulins are immunoglobulins (antibodies) that help to fight off infection. 

Though albumin is also a globular (round-shaped) protein, it is not classed as a globulin. Together albumin and globulin make up total protein

Why do I need a globulin blood test?

Your doctor may request a globulin blood test for several reasons. It can be useful when investigating liver and kidney problems, symptoms like oedema (swelling), or as part of a general health check. Levels are also sometimes raised in chronic infections and autoimmune conditions. 

A globulin blood test is rarely requested in isolation. Instead, it usually forms part of a liver function test, along with other markers like ALT, ALP, GGT, and bilirubin.

What is a normal globulin level?

A normal globulin level is approximately 19 – 35 g/l. Some laboratories may quote different figures due to differences in equipment, techniques, and chemicals.

What causes a raised globulin result?

As globulins are involved in many different processes and systems in the body, an abnormal result is often non-specific. Therefore, your healthcare provider will interpret your result in context of other test results and any symptoms you may have. 

Raised levels of globulin proteins may indicate [1, 2]:

  • Acute infection — such as pneumonia or hepatitis
  • Chronic inflammatory disease — such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Dehydration — this may occur after a high fever or with diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Multiple myeloma — a type of bone marrow cancer that often causes pain in the lower back
  • Liver cirrhosis — likely due to the liver’s impaired ability to remove immunoglobulins from the body

What causes a low globulin result?

Low globulin levels can indicate potential problems that may require further testing. 

Globulin levels may be low due to [3, 4]: 

  • Malnutrition
  • Kidney disease — such as nephrotic syndrome (due to protein loss through the kidneys)
  • Liver disease — due to decreased production of globulins

How do I improve my globulin levels?

Improving your globulin result will depend on why it’s raised or lowered. Some conditions, like acute infections and dehydration, are temporary and the result will improve as the infection passes or you rehydrate. 

Liver and kidney conditions, however, may require medications or other therapies. Some of these diseases, like cirrhosis, are not curable but may be improved with treatment. 

As globulin levels are influenced by inflammation and malnutrition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will always be helpful. This means eating a healthy, balanced diet, avoiding alcohol, and exercising regularly. 

What should I do if my globulin result is abnormal?

If your globulin level is abnormal, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor. They may need to ask you some more questions or order additional tests to work out the cause. 

You can check your globulin levels at home with our Liver Blood Test


References

  1. Tanaka S, Okamoto Y, Yamazaki M, Mitani N, Nakqjima Y, Fukui H. 2007. Significance of hyperglobulinemia in severe chronic liver diseases--with special reference to the correlation between serum globulin/IgG level and ICG clearance. Hepatogastroenterology. 54(80):2301-5.
  2. Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust. n.d. Globulin. [online] Available at: <http://pathlabs.rlbuht.nhs.uk/globulin.pdf> [Accessed 1 April 2022].
  3. Thompson, D., 2018. Plasma protein tests: how to interpret abnormal results. [online] Guidelines in Practice. Available at: <https://www.guidelinesinpractice.co.uk/liver-disease/plasma-protein-tests-how-to-interpret-abnormal-results/454286.article> [Accessed 1 April 2022].
  4. Busher JT. Serum Albumin and Globulin. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 101.