The Selenium Blood Test measures the amount of selenium in the blood. Selenium, an essential mineral that the body requires in trace amounts, is an antioxidant building block. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals in the body, reducing or preventing damage to cell membranes and DNA. Selenium also helps regulate thyroid function and plays a role in the proper functioning of the immune system. Humans get selenium from dietary consumption; sources include meat, seafood, cereals and grains, eggs, milk and Brazil nuts. It is often included in multivitamin formulations.
Most Americans consume adequate amounts of the mineral, and deficiencies are rare. Patients on parenteral nutrition that does not include selenium in the formula may be at risk of deficiencies. Deficiency has also been reported in cases of severe malnutrition. Selenium deficiency can result in cardiomyopathy, leading to congestive heart failure. It can also cause muscle weakness and pain, loss of pigmentation in the skin and hair, macrocytosis (enlargement of red blood cells) and other conditions.
Excess dietary intake or occupational exposure to selenium can result in selenium toxicity or selenosis. A garlic odor on the breath and metallic taste can be early indicators of excessive intake. Brittleness or loss of nails and hair can develop from chronically high intake. Other signs of toxicity include skin rashes or lesions, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, discolored teeth, and nervous system problems.
You need selenium in small amounts for making the enzymes and proteins your body needs. These enzymes provide an antioxidant effect, and help with immune function and thyroid function. Selenium deficiency is rare in the United States, but still does occur under certain conditions, so if you are at risk for this deficiency, get your selenium levels tested.
Selenium deficiency doesn't necessarily cause obvious symptoms. However, selenium deficiency affects your immune system, and may make you more likely to become ill. Signs of selenium deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle wasting and heart problems. Chronic low levels of selenium, such as those in areas where the soil is deficient in the mineral, can lead to forms of selenium deficiency that affect the bones and joints and cause heart problems or mental retardation.
Even though selenium is a necessary component of the body, it can be dangerous in high levels. A possible cause of selenium toxicity is the eating of plants grown in soil that is extremely selenium rich. Selenium toxicity is most often found in countries such as China wherein the soil is extremely rich in selenium and the mineral has made its way into the food and water supplies.
Selenium toxicity reacts much differently in humans with a few similarities. Symptoms include:
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Hair loss
• Sloughing off of nails
• Garlic breath
• Mood swings
• Neurological problems
• Pulmonary edema
• Cirrhosis of the liver
The Selenium Blood Test is also known as Se Serum. Fasting is not required prior to the test, and results will be available within two to three days. A doctor’s order and insurance are not required to order this test.