A glucagon blood test measures the amount of a hormone called glucagon in your blood. Glucagon is produced by cells in the pancreas. It helps control your blood sugar level by increasing blood sugar when it is too low.
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Your health care provider will tell you if you need to fast (not eat anything) for a period of time before the test.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Glucagon stimulates the liver to release glucose. As the level of blood sugar decreases, the pancreas releases more glucagon. And as blood sugar increases, the pancreas releases less glucagon.
The provider may measure glucagon level if a person has symptoms of:
The normal range is 50 to 100 pg/mL.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
Abnormal results may indicate that the person may have a condition described above under Why the Test is Performed.
Some experts now believe that high glucagon levels in the blood contribute to the development of diabetes instead of just a low level of insulin. Medicines are being developed to decrease glucagon levels or block the signal from glucagon in the liver.
When your blood sugar is low, the level of glucagon in your blood should be high. If it is not increased, this can help identify people that are at higher risk of severe hypoglycemia that can be dangerous.
Glucagon can be increased by prolonged fasting.
Veins vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Glucagon - plasma. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:580-581.
Nadkarni P, Weinstock RS. Carbohydrates. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 16.