Elevated Liver Enzymes

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Definition

What are elevated liver enzymes?

The liver is the body’s largest internal organ. It is located below the diaphragm on the right side of the abdomen. The liver performs many functions, including the following:

  • Produces most of the proteins the body needs
  • Metabolizes (breaks down) nutrients from food to produce energy
  • Prevents shortages of nutrients by storing certain vitamins, minerals, and sugar
  • Produces bile, a substance that helps digest fat and absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K
  • Produces substances that help with blood clotting
  • Helps your body fight infection by removing bacteria from the blood
  • Removes potentially poisonous byproducts of certain medications

An enzyme is a chemical that accelerates (speeds up) chemical reactions within the body. There are several enzymes in the liver, including alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). Elevated liver enzymes, found with a blood test, indicate inflamed or injured liver cells.

How common are elevated liver enzymes?

Elevated liver enzymes are extremely common. They can occur in patients in any gender at any age. They can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Which signs and symptoms can elevated liver enzymes usually be associated with?

Related signs and symptoms include:

  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes caused by liver problems)
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-colored stools
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite

Causes

What causes elevated liver enzymes?

Causes of elevated liver enzymes can include:

Many diseases and conditions can contribute to elevated liver enzymes. Your doctor determines the specific cause of your elevated liver enzymes by reviewing your medications, your signs and symptoms and, in some cases, other tests and procedures.

More common causes of elevated liver enzymes include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications, particularly acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)
  • Certain prescription medications, including statin drugs used to control cholesterol
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Heart failure
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Obesity

Other causes of elevated liver enzymes may include:

  • Alcoholic hepatitis (severe liver inflammation caused by excessive alcohol consumption)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis (liver inflammation caused by an autoimmune disorder)
  • Celiac disease (small intestine damage caused by gluten)
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Hemochromatosis (too much iron stored in your body)
  • Liver cancer
  • Mononucleosis
  • Polymyositis (inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness)
  • Sepsis (an overwhelming bloodstream infection that uses up neutrophils faster than they can be produced)
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Toxic hepatitis (liver inflammation caused by drugs or toxins)
  • Wilson’s disease (too much copper stored in your body)

The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of elevated liver enzymes. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for elevated liver enzymes?

You are more likely to experience elevated liver enzymes if you have any of the conditions mentioned above.

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

When to see your doctor

When should I see my doctor?

Elevated liver enzymes usually have no signs or symptoms on their own. The doctor may check for elevated liver enzymes in patients who might have hepatitis. The doctor may also order a liver enzyme test for patients who:

  • Drink a great deal of alcohol or abuse drugs
  • Have a family history of liver disease
  • Are overweight
  • Have diabetes

On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage elevated liver enzymes?

These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with elevated liver enzymes:

  • Stop drinking alcohol
  • Lose weight
  • Adopt a healthy diet

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: January 3, 2019 | Last Modified: January 3, 2019

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