High protein in blood, or hyperproteinemia, can lead to various health conditions. Diets that are high in fat and sugar causes inflammation, which increases the levels of C-reactive protein. Besides the diet, various health conditions also cause an increase of proteins in the blood. When high blood protein in a patient is observed, doctors usually recommend a series of blood tests to ascertain the origin of the proteins, the kind of protein being produced, and whether or not they indicate bone marrow disease.1 The health conditions that cause high protein in blood and the symptoms are described here.
Multiple myeloma2 is a type of cancer caused by the plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells, in the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma occurs in places where bone marrow is normally active in adults, such as the bones of the spine, skull, pelvis, rib cage, bones around the shoulders and hips among others. These cells generally produce antibodies, which are nothing but proteins. But, if they become cancerous, they produce abnormal antibodies. These abnormal antibodies are released into the bloodstream causing high protein levels in the blood.
2. Liver Damage
High protein in the blood can also be due to a damaged liver or a liver disease. During the early stages of any liver disease, the liver becomes inflamed, tender and enlarged. Inflammation indicates that the body is trying to fight an infection or heal an injury.3 A damaged liver releases two main proteins (ALT – Alanine Transaminase and AST – Aspartate Transaminase) into the blood. The liver produces both proteins that normally help metabolize amino acids. The quantity of these proteins can increase because of the accumulation of fat within liver cells caused by high triglycerides, obesity, diabetes, cirrhosis, hepatitis, autoimmune liver diseases and liver damage due to drugs or toxins.
3. Neural Tube Defects
Neural tube defects are abnormalities (birth defects) that occur in the brain, spine, or spinal cord of a developing embryo and are present at birth.4 During pregnancy, the baby’s liver produces a protein called alpha-fetoprotein. High levels of this protein indicate that the developing fetus has a neural tube defect. Because of this, the protein level in the blood is high.
When inflammation and trauma occurs, the immune system produces a protein called C-reactive. This protein activates other proteins to combat pathogens. Protein levels in the blood increase as C-reactive proteins are produced. Common infections such as a cold or flu and medical conditions such as arthritis are common causes of inflammation that in turn increase protein production. Inflammation is also a healing response to cellular damage. Excessive consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol damages the arteries, causing them to become inflamed. This triggers the production of C-reactive protein.
Amyloidosis is a group of a rare but serious condition caused by deposits of abnormal protein, called amyloid, in tissues and organs throughout the body.5 Amyloid proteins accumulate in the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach and other organs. Sometimes the amyloidosis is caused by other medical conditions, most commonly kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis and Hodgkin’s disease. This affects the normal function of the affected area. As the amyloid protein increases, health problems and organ damage occur as a consequence. There are several different types of amyloid proteins. When amyloid clusters together, it can occur in several places in the body, simultaneously.6
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is an asymptomatic condition, where an abnormal M protein is present in the blood. It is not a blood cancer, and people with MGUS usually do not ever develop blood cancer. But, the condition must be regularly monitored, as an increase in levels of this protein may indicate a risk of progression to myeloma, lymphoma, light-chain amyloidosis and other conditions. MGUS does not typically show symptoms such as bone damage, kidney damage, anemia, or elevated calcium levels. This condition can also be a cause for high protein level in the blood due to the presence of M protein in the blood.7 The risk of MGUS increases people grow older. Around 3% of people aged 50 and above, and about 5% of people aged 70 and above have M protein in their blood. The highest occurrence is among adults who are 85 and older. The cause of MGUS is unknown and there are rarely any symptoms associated with MGUS.8
7. HIV / AIDS
High levels of protein in the blood can occur if the person suffers from HIV / AIDS. Autopsy tissues obtained from individuals with chronic HIV-1 infection showed that glycoprotein 120 (gp120) was present in high concentrations in the spleen and lymph nodes of some of these individuals. Glycoprotein 120 was present at high levels in the peripheral blood of untreated patients with chronic HIV infection and AIDS. This shows that the protein levels in the blood can increase in people with HIV / AIDS.9
Symptoms Of High Protein In Blood
- Poor appetite
- Serious fatigue
- Digestive issues
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Continual fever
- Dizziness upon standing or sitting
- Tingling in the fingers and toes 10
An important factor that is within our control is that we can minimize the amount of artificial and supplementary protein intake and moderately consume naturally available sources of protein. This is one way to keep the protein level under your control. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day (or 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight). 11
|↑1||Symptoms Of High Protein In Blood. Reference.|
|↑2||What is myeloma. Myeloma UK.|
|↑3||The Progression of Liver Disease. American Liver Foundation. 2016.|
|↑4||Neural Tube Defects (NTDs): Condition Information. National Institute Of Child And Human Development.|
|↑5||Amyloidosis. NHS Choices. 2014.|
|↑6||A is for Amyloidosis. Amyloidosis Foundation. 2017.|
|↑7||Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS) Facts. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 2015.|
|↑8||Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS). Leukaemia Foundation.|
|↑9||Santosuosso, Michael, Elda Righi, Victoria Lindstrom, Pierre R. Leblanc, and Mark C. Poznansky. “HIV-1 envelope protein gp120 is present at high concentrations in secondary lymphoid organs of individuals with chronic HIV-1 infection.” Journal of Infectious Diseases 200, no. 7 (2009): 1050-1053.|
|↑10||What is hyperproteinemia. Reference.|
|↑11||Protein. Harvard School Of Public Health.|