When we eat, our pancreas releases an enzyme called lipase into our digestive tract to help the intestines break down fats in the food we’ve eaten. Lipase also aids the movements of nutrients and waste through the walls of the cells in our bodies. An optimal level of lipase is needed to maintain normal digestive and cell function; although, abnormally high levels of lipase in the blood can be an indicator of a health problem.
A lipase test is frequently ordered in tandem with an amylase test to diagnose and monitor several conditions, including:
- Acute / chronic pancreatitis
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pancreatic cancer
Some symptoms of pancreatic dysfunction include:
- Severe abdominal or back pain
- Loss of appetite
It is worth noting that pregnant women will have a skewed lipase blood test.
A low level of lipase in the blood may indicate permanent damage to the lipase-producing cells in the pancreas. This can occur in chronic diseases that affect the pancreas such as cystic fibrosis.
A high level of lipase or one that has increased between tests may signal the presence or worsening of a pancreatic disease (like pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer). It may also indicate a health condition that is blocking the flow of lipase from the pancreas, such as:
- A bowel obstruction
- An ulcer
Certain drugs are also known to increase lipase levels, including: pain medications (codeine, indomethacin, morphine), birth control pills, thiazide diuretics, and cholinergic drugs.
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