Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

What Causes High Protein Levels?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010 11:01 AM

Question: I've been told that I have high protein. I have no idea what it is or why I'm being checked for this. I am 66 years old.

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

The investigation for elevated protein levels is fairly simple. You need to understand that while low protein levels are usually associated with malabsorption or poor diet, high protein levels are also problematic.

Protein in our diet is not directly absorbed. It is broken down into amino-acid building blocks, then absorbed and reconstituted into different proteins by various parts of our bodies. All our various digestive enzymes, for example, are proteins, as are our immuno-globulins (antibodies).

Overproduction of protein signifies problems and usually needs correction. Occasionally overproduction occurs, which can lead to problems with our bone marrow and kidney function, as well as adversely affecting our circulation (placing us at risk for disorders associated with circulation compromise).

While malignant disease may be present with elevated protein levels (myeloma, etc.), there are many benign, non-malignant disorders that also elevate protein levels and have their own associated conditions.

Overproduction of antibodies may be in response to infection or inflammation, or it may reflect a cell line that has escaped the usual growth controls within our bodies. Be sure your doctor considers a protein electrophoresis to classify your protein elevation, and a protein immuno-electrophoresis to graph out your immuno-globulins. Usually a urine analysis will be needed.

For example, if your globulins are elevated, an analysis will isolate the individual types and help in localizing the source to help guide treatment recommendations.

Occasionally a bone marrow sample is needed when blood and urine studies need more clarification.

Because of the various associations with underlying disorder, I recommend you discuss your investigations further with your doctor. If you need a second opinion, you will need to ask to see a hematologist.

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