What is an Amylase Test?

An amylase test measures the amount of amylase in your blood or urine (pee). Amylase is an enzyme, or special protein, that helps you digest carbohydrates. Most of the amylase in your body is made by your pancreas and salivary glands.

A small amount of amylase in your blood and urine is normal. But having too much or too little may be a sign of a disorder of the pancreas or salivary glands, or another medical condition.

Other names: Amy test, serum amylase, urine amylase

What is it used for?

Tests for amylase in blood or urine are mainly used to diagnose problems with your pancreas, including pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. It is also used to monitor chronic (long-term) pancreatitis.

Increases and decreases in amylase levels show up in blood before urine, so an amylase urine test may be done with or after an amylase blood test.

One or both types of amylase test may also be used to help diagnose or monitor treatment for other disorders that may affect amylase levels, such as salivary gland disorders and certain digestive conditions.

Why do I need an amylase test?

Your health care provider may order an amylase blood and/or urine test if you have symptoms of a pancreatic disorder. Symptoms may begin suddenly or slowly and include:

  • Pain in your upper abdomen (belly) that may spread to your back or get worse after eating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Jaundice
  • Greasy, foul-smelling stool (poop)

Your provider may also order an amylase test to monitor an existing condition that affects the pancreas, including:

  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Eating disorders
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Recovery from having gallstones removed after a gallbladder attack

What happens during an amylase test?

For an amylase blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

For an amylase urine test, you will need to give a urine sample for the test. A health care professional may give you a cleansing wipe, a small container, and instructions for how to use the “clean catch” method to collect your urine sample. It’s important to follow these instructions so that germs from your skin don’t get into the sample:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them.
  2. Open the container without touching the inside.
  3. Clean your genital area with the cleansing wipe:
    • For a penis, wipe the entire head (end) of the penis. If you have a foreskin, pull it back first.
    • For a vagina, separate the labia (the folds of skin around the vagina) and wipe the inner sides from front to back.
  4. Urinate into the toilet for a few seconds and then stop the flow. Start urinating again, this time into the container. Don’t let the container touch your body.
  5. Collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container. The container should have markings to show how much urine is needed.
  6. Finish urinating into the toilet.
  7. Put the cap on the container and return it as instructed.

If you have hemorrhoids that bleed or are having your menstrual period, tell your provider before your test.

Your provider may request that you collect all your urine during a 24-hour period. That’s because the amount of amylase in urine can vary throughout the day. So, collecting several samples in a day may give a more accurate picture of your amylase levels. For this test, you will be given a container and specific instructions on how to collect your sample at home. Be sure to follow all instructions carefully.

In certain cases, your provider may order a test for amylase in peritoneal fluid. This is fluid between the layers of the tissue that line the inside of your abdomen (belly) and cover most of your organs. To get a sample, a health care professional will numb your skin and use a needle and tubing to draw some fluid into a container.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You should not drink alcohol for 24 hours before having an amylase blood or urine test. If you are having a blood test, your provider may also tell you to fast (not eat or drink) for two hours before the test. Your provider will let you know if there are any special instructions to follow.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. During a blood test, you may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

There is no known risk to having a urine test.

If you have a peritoneal fluid test, you may feel a little dizzy or lightheaded after the procedure. There is a small risk of the needle damaging your bowel or bladder, which may lead to bleeding or infection.

What do the results mean?

High levels of amylase in blood or urine may be a sign of:

  • Acute (sudden) pancreatitis
  • A blockage in a duct (small tube) in the pancreas
  • Pancreatic cancer or benign (not cancer) tumor

High levels of amylase in peritoneal fluid may be a sign of:

  • Acute pancreatitis
  • A blocked intestine
  • Lack of blood flow to the intestines

Low levels of amylase in blood or urine are uncommon, but may be a sign of:

  • Chronic pancreatitis causing permanent damage to the cells that make amylase
  • Kidney disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Liver disease
  • Pre-eclampsia (a type of high blood pressure in pregnancy)