Abnormal lab results can cause you significant stress. An elevated level of alkaline phosphatase can occur in some bone conditions because this enzyme is a marker of bone health. You should discuss your elevated alkaline phosphatase level with your physician, as it can also be an indication of other medical conditions including some cancers.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Arthritis and Inflammation
Arthritis is a general term that describes swelling and pain in your joints 1. The terms "arthro," meaning joint, and "itis," noting an inflammation, are derived from the Greek language. Arthritis can be classified as inflammatory and non-inflammatory. Inflammatory arthritis can present with pain in the joints that is worse in the morning or after periods of rest. Conditions such as lupus and Lyme disease are examples of inflammatory arthritis 1. Non-inflammatory arthritis can present with pain that is worse with activity and improves upon resting. Your doctor can confirm the type of arthritis you may have by analyzing a sample of fluid from your joint. White blood cells are a signal of inflammation and levels higher than 2000 per millimeter cubed suggest inflammatory arthritis.
Where Alkaline Phosphatase Found
Alkaline phosphatase is found in your liver, bone, small intestine and in the placentas of pregnant women. The enzyme is active in the process of bone formation where it catalyzes a chemical reaction that removes a phosphorus molecule. The removal of the phosphorus enables the deposition of calcium in the newly formed bone like a stack of building blocks.
Abnormal Levels of Alkaline Phosphatase
Alkaline phosphatase can be elevated during periods of bone growth such as in children and after a traumatic injury. In pregnancy, an elevation can occur in the third trimester when the placenta produces its own alkaline phosphatase. High levels can also indicate a signal of more serious conditions such as gallbladder disease and bone cancers. Low levels of alkaline phosphatase are seen in a genetic condition called hypophosphatasia, which causes your bones to weaken. Women taking birth control pills can have lower levels, but may also have an increased incidence of gallbladder disease, which can cause an elevation in alkaline phosphatase.
Arthritis and Alkaline Phosphatase
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint space that can occur due to an attack by the immune system or repeated movements over a long period of time. The bone in areas affected by either immune or mechanical injury is destroyed and your body reacts to these two injuries differently. Bone that is attacked by the immune system is flooded by chemical signals of inflammation. These signals attempt to rebuild the bone and an elevation in alkaline phosphatase is seen. Non-inflammatory arthritis does not have the chemical signals that occur with inflammatory arthritis and as such, there is not an elevation in alkaline phosphatase
- "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine"; Dan Longo; 2011
- "Schwartz's Principles of Surgery"; F. Brunicardi; 2009
- "Williams Obstetrics"; F. Cunningham; 2009
- "Current Rheumatology Diagnosis and Treatment"; John B. Imboden; 2004
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images