Delta-ALA

Definition

Delta-ALA is a protein (amino acid) produced by the liver. A test can be done to measure the amount of this substance in the urine.

Alternative Names

Delta-aminolevulinic acid

How the Test is Performed

Your health care provider will ask you to collect your urine at home over 24 hours. This is called a 24-hour urine sample. Your provider will tell you how to do this. Follow instructions exactly.

How to Prepare for the Test

Your provider may tell you to temporarily stop taking any medicines that can affect test results. Be sure to tell your provider about all the medicines you take. These include:

  • Penicillin (an antibiotic)
  • Barbiturates (medicines to treat anxiety)
  • Birth control pills
  • Griseofulvin (medicine to treat fungal infections)

How the Test will Feel

The test involves only normal urination. There is no discomfort.

Why the Test is Performed

This test looks for an increased level of delta-ALA. It may be used to help diagnose a condition called porphyria.

Normal Results

Normal value range for adults is 1.0 to 7.0 mg (7.6 to 53.3 mol/L) over 24 hours.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly from one lab to another. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An increased level of urinary delta-ALA may indicate:

  • Lead poisoning
  • Porphyria (several types)

 A decreased level may occur with chronic (long-term) liver disease.

Risks

There are no risks.

References

Elghetany MT, Schexneider KI, Banki K. Erythrocytic disorders. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 32.

Fuller SJ, Wiley JS. Heme biosynthesis and its disorders: porphyrias and sideroblastic anemias. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, Heslop HE, Weitz JI, Anastisi J, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 36.

Review Date: 2/1/2017

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