What is a vitamin E (tocopherol) test?
A vitamin E test measures the amount of vitamin E in your blood. Vitamin E (also known as tocopherol or alpha-tocopherol) is a nutrient that is important for many body processes. It helps your nerves and muscles work well, prevents blood clots, and boosts the immune system. Vitamin E is a type of antioxidant, a substance that protects cells from damage.
Most people get the right amount of vitamin E from their diet. Vitamin E is found naturally in many foods, including green, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. If you have too little or too much vitamin E in your body, it can cause serious health problems.
Other names: tocopherol test, alpha-tocopherol test, vitamin E, serum
What is it used for?
A vitamin E test may be used to:
- Find out if you are getting enough vitamin E in your diet
- Find out if you are absorbing enough vitamin E. Certain disorders cause problems with the way the body digests and uses nutrients, such as vitamin E.
- Check the vitamin E status of premature babies. Premature babies are at a higher risk of vitamin E deficiency, which can cause serious complications.
- Find out if you are getting too much vitamin E
Why do I need a vitamin E test?
You may need a vitamin E test if you have symptoms of vitamin E deficiency (not getting or absorbing enough vitamin E) or of vitamin E excess (getting too much vitamin E).
Symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency include:
- Muscle weakness
- Slow reflexes
- Difficulty or unsteady walking
- Vision problems
Vitamin E deficiency is very rare in healthy people. Most of the time, vitamin E deficiency is caused by a condition where nutrients are not properly digested or absorbed. These include Crohn’s disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and some rare genetic disorders. Vitamin E deficiency may also be caused by a very low-fat diet.
Symptoms of vitamin E excess include:
Vitamin E excess is also rare. It’s usually caused by taking too many vitamins. If not treated, excess vitamin E can lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of stroke.
What happens during a vitamin E test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You will probably need to fast (not eat or drink) for 12–14 hours before the test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
A low amount of vitamin E means you are not getting or absorbing enough vitamin E. Your health care provider will probably order more tests to find out the cause. Vitamin E deficiency can be treated with vitamin supplements.
High vitamin E levels mean you are getting too much vitamin E. If you are using vitamin E supplements, you will need to stop taking them. Your health care provider may also prescribe other medicines to treat you.
Is there anything else I need to know about a vitamin E test?
Many people believe vitamin E supplements can help prevent certain disorders. But there is no solid evidence that vitamin E has any effect on heart disease, cancer, eye disease, or mental function. To learn more about vitamin supplements or any dietary supplements, talk to your health care provider.
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