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Amylase is a digestive enzyme produced in the greatest quantities in the pancreas and the salivary glands. The effects of elevated amylase in the blood are rarely recognized by the patient. Noticeable symptoms of amylase in the blood are instead correlated with the medical condition causing the elevated levels of amylase. One of the most common conditions causing amylase in the blood is infection, disease, or trauma to the pancreas, which can cause reduced insulin production, nausea, and pain in the chest and back. The second most common cause of amylase in the blood is trauma to the salivary glands, a condition called parotitis, which causes a dry or bad taste in the mouth and pain and swelling in the mouth or neck.
The acceptable level of amylase in blood is approximately 20-70 units/pint (40-140 units/liter). A value outside this range is most often a sign of pancreatitis, cancer of the pancreas, or parotitis. Amylase in the blood can also sometimes signal gall bladder problems or a blockage of the bile duct or intestines. In some rare cases, it can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
Unfortunately, amylase in blood does not often last long, so symptoms are not typically noticed by the patient. Symptoms of elevated amylase levels in the blood begin to show when the medical condition causing the amylase increase escalates to a severe level. This means that the effects of amylase in blood are highly variable and depend on the underlying cause.
When the underlying cause of amylase in blood is infection, disease, or trauma to the pancreas, the first symptoms noticed are related to the inability of the damaged pancreas to produce insulin. Used to regular blood sugar levels, insulin is essential to survival. Low insulin levels cause feelings of extreme thirst, fatigue, and frequent urination. Depleted insulin may also cause extreme weight loss.
As the health of the pancreas deteriorates, along with having amylase in the blood, the patient will also develop nausea and extreme fatigue and may sweat excessively. The patient may also experience pain in the chest. This pain may radiate around the body to the back.
Parotitis is a condition in which the parotid glands, the largest of the salivary glands, are damaged due to dental work, mouth trauma, or radiation to the neck. This condition can cause amylase to leak into the blood. One of the most noticeable symptoms of parotitis that is correlated with amylase in blood is an odd taste in the mouth and dryness of the mouth. Parotitis can also cause pain and swelling of the mouth and neck, which can interfere with eating.