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Causes of Elevated Lipase

by
author image Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
Farrokh Sohrabi is board certified as an internist, practices hospital medicine, and has been involved in medical writing since 2008. He has been published in peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals, including "The Journal of Investigative Medicine," "Headache," "Consultant" and "Traffic." Sohrabi completed undergraduate training at Johns Hopkins University and received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Causes of Elevated Lipase
Blood sample to measure lipase Photo Credit blood sample image by Glenn Jenkinson from Fotolia.com

Lipase is an enzyme that is found in several different places in the body, including the pancreas, intestines, and liver. In the pancreas, lipase helps in digestion of food by breaking down components of fat called triglycerides into smaller molecules that can be easily absorbed. According to the website Healthline.com, the pancreas is the primary source of lipase in the body. The level of lipase in the blood can be increased due to a variety of causes, ranging from problems with the pancreas to medications.

Pancreatic Problems

Lipase level is often measured in people who complain of severe abdominal pain, especially when the pain is in the middle of the abdomen. The pancreas is in this region, and when it gets inflamed, lipase levels often go up, according to the website Labtestonline.org. This condition is called acute pancreatitis and is most commonly due to alcohol use or to gallstones that lodge near a duct going out from the pancreas. Repeated bouts of acute pancreatitis may lead to chronic pancreatitis, in which lipase levels may chronically be high. Tumors of the pancreas can also cause elevated lipase level. Finally, trauma to the pancreas, either from injury or from an operation or surgical procedure, can cause the lipase level to rise.

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Gallbladder and Intestinal Problems

Cholecystitis, an infection of the gallbladder, can cause lipase levels to rise. Lipase levels may also be elevated in people who have an intestinal blockage, a condition that may happen in people who have scar tissue in their abdomens from prior surgeries. Intestinal ulcers, especially in the upper portion of the small intestine known as the duodenum, may also raise lipase levels. Celiac disease, a condition in which the protein gluten is not absorbed correctly, has also been associated with high lipase levels. Gluten is a protein found in wheat products such as flour and bread.

Medications

A variety of medications can cause blood lipase levels to rise. These include furosemide, a diuretic pill often used in people with swelling or heart problems, corticosteroids, which are used to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases, oral contraceptives, and valproic acid, which is used to treat people with seizure disorders or certain psychiatric conditions.

Other Causes

Patients with HIV disease may have elevated lipase levels, and sometimes the elevated lipase level in these patients is due to pancreatitis, according to an article in the "American Journal of Gastroenterology." Lipase level elevation may also occur in patients with kidney disease or kidney failure. In some cases, health care practitioners cannot precisely determine the cause of an elevated lipase level, in which case the condition is called idiopathic.

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