Hypoproteinemia – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Hypoproteinemia is characterized by a reduced protein concentration in the blood plasma . It is not an independent disease, but often develops as a result of various disorders.

What is hypoproteinemia?

In hypoproteinemia , the protein concentrations in the blood plasma are below 6 g/dl. Normally, the protein content in an adult is between 6.1 – 8.1 g/dl.

Hypoalbuminemia is the most common. Clearly reduced albumin concentrations are present here. Less often, the immunoglobulins are reduced. Albumin deficiency leads to edema and increased levels of fatty acids, bilirubin and hormones in the blood. With an immunoglobulin deficiency, the immune system is weakened.

As a symptom of specific underlying diseases or functional disorders, hypoproteinemia cannot be defined as an independent disease.


There are basically four causal complexes for hypoproteinemia . It can develop on the basis of malabsorption, malnutrition , high protein losses or protein synthesis disorders. There are several diseases that are characterized by reduced protein absorption in the gut (malabsorption).

These include food allergies , food intolerances such as celiac disease or sprue, chronic bowel disease and cystic fibrosis . Malnutrition occurs when there is hunger, anorexia nervosa ( anorexia nervosa ) or tumors in the gastrointestinal tract. There are also diseases that lead to severe protein losses.

Kidney diseases in particular, such as B. the nephrotic syndrome , are characterized by high protein losses. Even with extensive burns and dermatosis, the body loses a lot of protein. Protein synthesis disorders occur in cirrhosis of the liver and in antibody deficiency syndrome and then lead to hypoproteinemia.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Hypoproteinemia can present with a variety of symptoms. Typically, edema develops as the disease progresses . This accumulation of water can occur anywhere on the body and is sometimes associated with severe pain, an increased risk of infection and other symptoms. Skin irritations such as itching and pain often occur.

Hypoproteinemia can also lead to ascites , which in turn is associated with a variety of symptoms and conditions. Gastrointestinal complaints such as flatulence , diarrhea , nausea and vomiting often occur . Weight loss can occur over the long term. Hypoproteinemia is usually associated with low blood pressure, associated with dizziness and other disturbances of consciousness .

As the disease progresses, infections and inflammations increase. Depending on the severity of the disease, the weakened immune system can lead to other health problems. Furthermore, hypoproteinemia can cause damage and discomfort to internal organs. If the disease is not treated, it can be fatal.

There is also an increased risk of long-term damage to the immune system. In the worst case, untreated hypoproteinemia can be fatal for the patient. Before this, the symptoms increase in intensity, eventually leading to unconsciousness and coma .

Diagnosis & History

Hypoproteinemia is partly the result of life-threatening diseases and sometimes itself leads to situations that can become very dramatic.

Due to a lack of immunoglobulin, dangerous infections can occur because the immune system is weakened. In most cases, however, there is a lack of albumins. This always leads to edema (water accumulation in the tissue). In more severe cases, ascites or pleural effusion may occur. Ascites is an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen between the organs. The hunger pang is typical. Water can also collect in the lungs (pleural effusion). Particularly in the case of ascites, bacteria sometimes pass from the intestine into the abdominal cavity.

In conjunction with the weakened immune system, these infections can be fatal. The accumulation of water occurs as a result of the reduction in colloid osmotic pressure, also known as oncotic pressure, in the blood vessels. Water seeps out through the blood vessels. With a normal concentration of colloidal protein particles, the oncotic pressure would be sufficient to prevent this fluid loss. In addition to edema, the patient also suffers from low blood pressure.

At the same time, the concentration of fatty acids, bilirubin and hormones in the blood increases, since the absorption capacity of albumins for these substances is too low due to their deficiency. These symptoms lead to the suspected diagnosis of hypoproteinemia. Serum protein electrophoresis can be used to determine whether albumins or immunoglobulins are present in a reduced concentration. However, since hypoproteinemia does not usually occur in isolation, its causes should be determined in order to be able to treat the underlying disorder effectively.


In most cases, hypoproteinemia does not occur alone and is always the result of an underlying disease. For this reason, the symptoms and complications of the causative disease must always be considered in the foreground. However, hypoproteinemia leads to low blood pressure and ascites.Due to the low blood pressure, many patients suffer from dizziness and nausea and, in the worst case, can lose consciousness completely. In general, those affected feel weak and the patient’s resilience drops enormously. The immune system is also usually weakened and the affected person becomes ill more often and suffers more from infections and inflammations. The quality of life decreases relatively strongly due to the hypoproteinemia.

Furthermore, the disease can cause various damage and disorders to the internal organs of the body. As a rule, there is no symptomatic treatment of hypoproteinemia. The treatment is always causal and depends on the underlying disease. In most cases, the disease progresses positively without complications. The patient may have to change their diet to counteract the symptoms.

When should you go to the doctor?

If low blood pressure, edema or signs of ascites are noticed, a doctor should be consulted promptly. Immediate medical attention is indicated if severe dizziness occurs suddenly, possibly with nausea and vomiting. If the person concerned becomes unconscious, the first responders must call the emergency doctor and provide accompanying first aid. Severe infections or disorders of organ function must be treated in the hospital.

Hypoproteinemia always requires medical evaluation, because if left untreated, the disease can lead to serious complications and, in the worst case, be fatal. People who suffer from chronic intestinal diseases, food allergies, cystic fibrosis and other diseases that can cause malnutrition should consult their family doctor if they experience the symptoms and complaints mentioned. The doctor can clarify the cause and, if necessary, refer the patient to an internist. If mental or psychosomatic symptoms develop during the course of the illness, a therapist must be consulted. Children should be consulted with a pediatrician if hypoproteinemia is suspected .

Treatment & Therapy

The therapy of hypoproteinemia is only possible in connection with the treatment of the underlying disease. Once the cause of the hypoproteinemia has disappeared, the protein concentrations in the blood quickly return to normal.

The water leakage from the blood vessels is stopped and the edema recedes. In severe cases, the ascites must be punctured and drained through the abdominal wall. The patient is also given diuretics to remove excess water from the body. What is important, however, is the treatment of the respective underlying disease. Malnutrition in anorexia often requires psychological therapy.

Celiac disease requires a gluten-free diet. Serious liver and kidney diseases must be treated individually according to the type and severity of the respective disorder. Long-term therapy is often necessary if a chronic disease is present. At the same time, accumulations of water in the abdomen and lungs that occur again and again in the case of hypoproteinemia should be removed by puncture.


No recommendation can be given for the prevention of hypoproteinemia , as its causes are varied. Recommendations only apply to the respective underlying disease. However, if the disease is known, treating it can prevent hypoproteinemia.


Subsequent therapy or aftercare is also part of the treatment of hypoproteinemia. These later steps aim to identify the origin of the disease. In order to bring the protein concentration in the blood back to normal, there are some additional measures that the patients themselves can help with.

There is often a change in diet plan. Everyday aftercare consists, for example, of a gluten-free diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. Lean meat provides the necessary vital substances. Mineral water, diluted fruit juice and herbal tea are good options for fluid intake. If the doctor diagnoses liver and/or kidney disease, there is another approach to health improvement.

A change in diet is also helpful here. In the case of malnutrition, such as occurs in anorexia, patients should optimize their food intake. This usually requires a new body awareness, which in turn is closely linked to the psychological situation.

Psychotherapeutic care is recommended for people who suffer from an eating disorder. A nutritionist can also help put together an individual diet. In this way, the body gradually and gently receives the necessary nutrients. In some cases, the aftercare also includes the treatment of any edema that may be present. There are natural healing methods such as massage or acupuncture.

You can do that yourself

Patients who have been diagnosed with hypoproteinemia may be able to take some measures themselves to support medical management.

If the symptoms are caused by celiac disease, the diet must be changed. The menu should be gluten-free and consist of healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables and lean meat. In addition, plenty of fluids should be taken in, preferably mineral water, herbal teas or diluted fruit juices. In addition, any liver and kidney diseases must be treated. What the sick person can do themselves depends on the type of illness. In general, a balanced diet, supported by a healthy lifestyle with sufficient exercise and stress avoidance, also helps here. If hypoproteinemia is due to malnutrition, daily food intake must be improved.

Since chronic malnutrition is usually based on psychological causes such as anorexia or other eating disorders, a visit to a psychologist is recommended. To support this, a suitable diet should be drawn up with a nutritionist that gently supplies the body with all the necessary nutrients. Massages and acupuncture , among other things, can be used to self-treat any edema , always in consultation with the responsible doctor.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.