In most of the cases, abnormal liver function tests are recommended for people with symptoms of liver problems to track the progress of certain ailments and the medication used to treat them.
Liver function tests, a.k.a. liver panels, are clinical blood tests executed to determine the condition of a person’s liver. In most of the cases, liver problems begin with mild symptoms that are difficult to assess. If these problems are diagnosed in the preliminary stage itself, it becomes very easy to treat the underlying ailment. These tests are recommended with the onset of these mild signs and symptoms in order to find out the underlying condition which hampers liver functioning. On the other hand, if not diagnosed in early stages, the problems are known to worsen and lead to more complicated, irreversible health conditions, like cirrhosis and liver cancer, and eventually result in liver failure.
Liver Function Tests
In human anatomy, liver is designated the task of producing certain enzymes necessary for proper functioning of our body. Alterations in the levels of these enzymes are signs of some abnormalities in the body, mostly in functioning of the liver. In liver function tests, the levels of the enzymes and proteins produced in the liver are measured by examining the blood. Discussed below are the factors taken into consideration when these tests are carried out.
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and Aspartarte aminotransferase (AST) Levels
Measuring ALT and AST levels helps in determining the degree of inflammation. When liver cells are damaged, the aminotransferase enzymes present in these cells leaks into the blood stream. Assessing the levels of ALT and AST is helpful in diagnosis of hepatitis, muscle damage in the body, and alcohol-induced liver problems.
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and Gamma-glutamyl transferase (Gamma GT)
Increase in the levels of ALP and Gamma GT is a sign of some obstructive or cholestatic liver disease, wherein obstruction of the bile duct suspends the transportation of bile from the liver. Gamma GT also helps in determining the alcohol use of the individual.
Albumin and Bilirubin
Albumin level decreases in chronic liver diseases and goes on decreasing as the disease worsens. The levels may also see a decline in case of malnutrition or protein deficiency. More importantly, increase in bilirubin, a pigment present in the bile, is known to cause jaundice.
Prothrombin Time: Clotting Ability of Blood
Liver plays an important role in blood clotting, i.e., thickening of blood. Any damage caused to the liver leads to thinning of blood and hence, it takes longer time for blood to clot. Prolonged prothrombin time, i.e., the ability of blood to clot, is an indication of chronic liver disease.
Causes of Abnormal Liver Functioning
Liver failure is one of the main reasons for these tests to be positive. It is a life-threatening medical condition, which develops in a short period. Liver function tests are very effective when it comes to early diagnosis and treatment of this condition.
Commonly referred to as fatty liver disease, steatohepatitis is one of the major diseases which can lead to abnormal functioning of the liver. It is normally caused due to excessive alcohol abuse, consumption of more than the required amount of calories, or excessive weight loss all of sudden.
A medical condition characterized by abnormal body function, wherein excessive amount of iron is extracted from the food a person consumes, and stored in the liver. It is a recessive genetic disorder.
Other reasons include diseases, such as viral hepatitis, toxic substances, such as alcohol and pesticides, or certain medication meant to treat some other ailment the person is suffering from. It may be surprising, but even an aspirin can cause the liver to function abnormally.
Generally, it is assumed that elevated levels of these enzymes is a sign of some irregularity in the body. However, this doesn’t mean that such elevated levels compulsorily correspond to some disease. At times, the enzyme levels are elevated even in people whose liver is functioning normally.