Lipase is a type of digestive enzyme or “digestive juice.” It helps your body digest fats. Most of your lipase is made in your pancreas, an organ located behind the lower part of your stomach. Lipase is also made in your salivary (spit) glands and in your stomach.

It’s normal to have a small amount of lipase in your blood. But if the cells of your pancreas are damaged, they will release larger amounts of lipase. So high levels of lipase in your blood may mean you have pancreatitis, (an inflamed, swollen pancreas) or another type of pancreatic disease. A lipase tests can help diagnose these conditions and others.

Other names: serum lipase, lipase, LPS

What is it used for?

A lipase test may be used to:

  • Help diagnose diseases of the pancreas, especially acute (sudden) pancreatitis
  • Check to see if treatment for pancreatic diseases is working
  • Help diagnose and monitor chronic diseases that affect the pancreas, including:
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Crohn disease
    • Celiac disease

Why do I need a lipase test?

You may need a lipase test if you have symptoms that may be caused by a problem with your pancreas. These include:

  • Pain in your upper belly that may spread to your back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen or tender belly
  • Fever
  • Fast heartbeat

What happens during a lipase test?

Lipase is measured with a blood test. During a 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.

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

You may need to fast (not eat or drink) for 8-12 hours before a lipase blood test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having 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.

What do the results mean?

A very high level of lipase is usually a sign of acute pancreatitis.

Higher than normal levels of lipase may be caused by:

  • Diseases of the pancreas, including a blocked duct (tube), or pancreatic cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Intestinal problems, such as a blocked intestine
  • Diabetes
  • Salivary (spit) gland disorders, such as infection or cancer
  • Alcohol use disorder

Low levels of lipase may be a sign of permanent damage to cells in your pancreas that make lipase. This may happen in certain chronic (long-lasting) diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis.

If your lipase levels are not normal, it doesn’t always mean you have a medical condition that needs treatment. Many medicines, including codeine, diuretics (“water pills”), certain cholesterol medicines, and birth control pills, can affect your lipase levels.

If you have questions about your lipase test results, talk with your health care provider.