A doctor may recommend a lipase blood test if a person has symptoms of a pancreatic disorder. Lipase is an enzyme that may be high in people with pancreatitis, or other conditions.

The pancreas produces lipase during digestion. This enzyme helps the intestines break down fats. Inflammation or injury to the pancreas can cause lipase to diffuse into the bloodstream.

A lipase test, also known as a serum lipase test, can show whether levels of lipase are high. Although a lipase test is not specific to the pancreas, when combined with symptoms of pancreatic disease, high levels may indicate a problem with the pancreas.

The doctor may also check levels of another enzyme called amylase at the same time as the lipase test. This can provide more information that will help with diagnosing a disorder of the pancreas.

This article takes a close look at the uses, procedures, results, and ranges of a lipase test. Read on to learn how to lower elevated levels of lipase.

A person receiving a lipase test to check the pancreas.Share on Pinterest
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Doctors may use a lipase test to diagnose or monitor conditions that involve the pancreas, including:

A doctor will usually order a lipase test if a person shows signs of a pancreatic disorder.

Some symptoms of a pancreatic disorder include:

The doctor may order an amylase test alongside the lipase test. The results of an amylase test can support the diagnosis of pancreatic disease.

Following diagnosis, the doctor can use lipase and amylase tests to monitor the treatment of the condition.

A lipase test is like any other simple blood test.

A technician will first tie a band around the person’s arm so blood pools in their vein. The technician will then select a vein, clean the area, and draw blood with a small needle.

The technician then sends the blood sample to a laboratory, where the lipase levels are measured and analyzed.

Result times vary, depending on the facilities. A person can ask their doctor to estimate when they expect to receive the results. The doctor will arrange to review the results with the person.

Preparation for a lipase test is minimal. As with any medical test, follow the advice and instructions of doctors and technicians.

The doctor usually requests a person stop eating for a specified amount of time before the blood test.

A person taking any medications or supplements should tell the doctor about them in advance because some substances can interfere with lipase test results.

The doctor may also advise against taking certain medications before the test.

Typical ranges for results vary depending on several factors, including sex, age, and overall health. They will also vary between lab facilities.

Because of this, it is important to discuss the results with a doctor. The same result may indicate a problem in one person and not in another.

If a person’s lipase levels are three times over the normal upper limit, this can indicate acute pancreatitis.

A pancreatic attack causes blood lipase levels to rise within 3–6 hours. These levels may stay elevated for up to 2 weeks.

Causes of high lipase

Certain conditions may lead to high lipase levels, including:

Some medications may also lead to increased lipase levels. These include:

Causes of low lipase

Significantly low lipase levels may indicate damage to the pancreatic cells that produce lipase.

This can result from long-term disorders, such as chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis.

In some cases, advanced pancreatic cancer may also result in decreased pancreatic enzyme levels.

A medical professional may evaluate for this depending on the context and a person’s medical history.

After a doctor diagnoses and treats the cause of elevated lipase levels, the levels will decline.

Acute pancreatitis is one of the most common issues associated with high levels of lipase in the blood. When a doctor detects the condition at an early stage, treatments can include:

A doctor will also treat any underlying issues responsible for pancreatitis, such as gallstones or elevated calcium levels. Some medications can cause acute pancreatitis. In this case, the doctor will change the type or dosage.

A person may be able to reduce their risk of developing acute pancreatitis by eating a nutritious diet and avoiding dehydration. Quitting smoking can also reduce the risk of acute pancreatitis.

Regardless of whether acute pancreatitis or another underlying condition is responsible for elevated levels of lipase in the blood, receiving treatment should cause levels to return to a typical range.

Below are some commonly asked questions about a lipase test.

What level of lipase is concerning?

A person’s lipase level will vary depending on several factors, including sex, age, and overall health.

However, if a person has three times the normal level of lipase in their blood, this is concerning and points to them having acute pancreatitis.

Why would a doctor order a lipase test?

A doctor may order a lipase test if a person shows symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, or nausea, and to monitor the effect of treatment.

What diseases cause high lipase levels?

Diseases that can cause high lipase levels include:

  • acute or chronic pancreatitis
  • bowel obstruction
  • peptic ulcer disease
  • cholecystitis
  • kidney disease
  • diabetes

The lipase test is relatively noninvasive and unlikely to cause any complications. A doctor may recommend a lipase blood test if a person shows signs of a pancreatic disorder.

Test results can help a doctor diagnose acute pancreatitis and other health issues affecting the pancreas.

Detecting and treating acute pancreatitis at an early stage can help prevent the condition from becoming severe.