To diagnose pancreatitis
If you have symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite or nausea
A blood sample drawn from a vein in the arm
Amylase is an enzyme made mainly by the pancreas. It is released from the pancreas into the digestive tract to help digest starch in our food.
A blood sample is taken by needle from a vein in the arm.
The blood test for amylase is used to diagnose acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). The swift rise of amylase at the beginning of a pancreatitis attack, and its fall after about 2 days, helps to pinpoint this diagnosis.
An amylase test may be ordered if you show symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, or nausea.
In pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas, amylase levels are very high, often 5-10 times normal. Smaller elevations in amylase levels may also be seen in other causes of abdominal pain such as, gallbladder disease, a perforated ulcer, obstruction of the intestinal tract or diabetic ketoacidosis.
In acute pancreatitis, elevated amylase levels usually parallel levels of another enzyme called lipase. Both amylase and lipase are sometimes ordered together to diagnose acute pancreatitis.
Chronic (long-term) pancreatitis is often associated with alcoholism. Amylase levels may be moderately elevated with chronic pancreatitis or may be decreased when the cells that produce amylase in the pancreas become damaged or destroyed.
Rarely an unusual large form of amylase which is not cleared by the kidneys (macro-amylase) is found and this may cause persistent elevations of amylase levels without any symptoms.
Conditions: Pancreatic disease, pancreatitis
RCPA Manual: Amylase
Better Health Channel: Pancreatitis explained
Last Review Date: July 19, 2013