The liver produces enzymes that aid in the body's fundamental processes. Functions of liver enzymes include aiding your body's ability to fight infections, making coagulation proteins required for blood clotting, breaking down the food you consume, and helping eliminate toxins in the body.
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The liver makes proteins called liver enzymes. Enzymes from the liver aid in accelerating several chemical processes. Serious complications may result if one or more of these processes are impeded. Your blood's concentration of these proteins is a reliable indicator of your liver's health.
Your liver produces several different liver enzymes, such as:
Aspartate transaminase (AST)
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
Alanine transaminase (ALT)
Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)
When liver cells are damaged, they release higher levels of the two major enzymes — alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) — into the bloodstream. The intricacy of the liver enzymes' function is one of the reasons you should seek medical advice if you have increased liver enzymes.
High levels of liver enzymes may indicate inflammation or a damaged liver. The liver cells that are inflamed or wounded release more than usual amounts of several substances, notably liver enzymes, into the bloodstream, causing elevated liver enzyme levels.
There are several causes for changes in liver enzyme levels. Some reasons are temporary and will go away within two to four weeks without medical interventions. Other, more serious reasons call for medical attention.
Hormones: During pregnancy and your menstrual cycle, your liver's hormone levels may fluctuate. The amount of liver enzymes changes with age and body mass index throughout the typical menstrual cycle, probably through the action of progesterone.
Certain medicines: Your liver enzyme levels may be increased by some drugs, such as acetaminophen, antibiotics, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Organic supplements: Herbal and dietary supplements of iron, vitamin C, and chaparral might raise liver enzyme levels.
Alcohol: Excessive drinking of alcohol increases the levels of liver enzymes.
Fatty liver disease: Fatty liver disease can be brought on by excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and various other conditions. Fatty liver disease increases your liver enzyme levels regardless of the source.
Hemochromatosis: This is an uncommon disorder that develops when the body stores too much iron. A sign of the disorder may include increased liver enzyme levels.
Hepatitis of all varieties: Any kind of hepatitis, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, autoimmune hepatitis, and alcoholic hepatitis, results in high liver enzyme levels and liver inflammation.
Cirrhosis: This is a condition characterized by chronic liver damage. It is a phase of alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) when the liver has become substantially scarred. Elevated liver enzyme levels are a result of this damage.
Cancer: Cancer that affects the liver will also influence your liver enzymes.
Hemolysis: A wide variety of pathologies, including illnesses like sickle cell disease (SCD) and malaria, are associated with intravascular hemolysis, which is defined by the accumulation of a considerable number of red blood cells that have been destroyed.
Thyroid disease: Patients with hyperthyroidism experience an increased risk of high levels of liver enzymes.
Metabolic syndrome: The phrase "metabolic syndrome" describes a collection of illnesses that increase your chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. For those who have metabolic syndrome, elevated liver levels are possible. High liver levels are possible in those who have metabolic syndrome.
Wilson disease: Excess copper accumulation in the liver, brain, and other organs is a hallmark of Wilson disease, a rare autosomal-recessive hereditary condition of copper metabolism. If it is not identified and treated quickly, it is deadly. One of the symptoms of the disease is elevated levels of liver enzymes.
A third of people with elevated liver enzyme levels will have normal liver enzyme levels after two to four weeks.
However, if your liver enzyme levels remain high, your doctor may request more blood work or imaging tests. Acute hepatitis causes AST levels to elevate for roughly one to two months before returning to normal, which might take about three to six months.
Standard blood draws are required for a liver function test and can be completed during a routine office visit. Generally speaking, no special preparation is needed before a liver function test, but a doctor might advise fasting 10–12 hours before blood collection.
Most of those with high liver enzymes don't exhibit any symptoms. However, if liver damage is the reason your liver enzymes are elevated, you can have symptoms like:
Stools in a light color (poop)
Decrease in appetite
Nausea and vomiting
The treatment method is based on the underlying cause of elevated liver enzymes. The average time it takes for liver enzyme levels to return to normal naturally is about two to four weeks. You may need to change your medication, stop taking a supplement, or reduce your drinking if you drink, but a treatment plan won't be necessary.
Your doctor may need to treat your liver enzyme levels if they rise and remain elevated. They may advise imaging scans or blood tests to get a better look at your liver. Another option would be to ask for a liver biopsy. Your doctor may refer you to an expert based on your test results. Ultimately, your treatment will be based on your diagnosis.
Individuals who are concerned about their liver enzyme levels may also consider altering their lifestyles at home by taking steps like:
Cutting back on or stopping drinking alcohol
Drinking coffee (One cup of coffee per day reduces the risk of dying from chronic liver disease by 15%; thus, drinking coffee can be beneficial.)
Being careful about the drugs and dietary supplements you consume
Attempting to eat more foods that are good for your liver
Maintaining a healthy weight
Your liver enzyme levels may determine your liver's health because high levels can indicate a problem. As a result, elevated enzyme levels could show liver damage or disease. A routine blood test can help assess the level of liver enzymes and suggest a course of action.
High liver enzyme levels can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as hepatitis C, liver cancer, hormonal changes, drug use, and other more serious illnesses. Not all causes of elevated liver enzymes are life-threatening; some are transient and may go away independently.
The reason for increased liver enzyme levels determines the course of treatment.
Hepatitis and elevated liver enzymes explained | Parkview Health