Elevated liver enzymes can point to many different conditions. Sometimes it does not indicate any abnormality. In other instances, it can be a sign of a deadly disease, including liver cancer and cirrhosis. Treatment varies widely based on the conditions causing them to be elevated. Doctors use tests to help determine the cause of the elevated enzyme counts.
If you are diagnosed with elevated liver enzymes, the revelation could bring any number of treatments. Which treatment is prescribed for you relies heavily on just what causes your high count of liver enzymes.
Elevated liver enzymes result when there is inflammation or damage to the liver. One culprit is alcohol, which overburdens the liver when consumed often and in large amounts and causes alcoholic, hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. Also, the increase can be due to obesity, Hepatitis A, B or C, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, Celiac disease, liver cancer or mononucleosis.
Doctors often schedule additional tests to pinpoint the cause of your elevated liver enzymes. Liver function tests measure the work the liver does. Doctors use more than a dozen tests. Two tests check for albumin and bilirubin. Other tests look at two enzymes in the liver, alanine transaminase(ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST), and the enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP).
A more extreme procedure is a liver biopsy test, where a physician removes a sample of your liver tissue to run tests on it.
In most liver disease cases, ALT levels rise above AST levels. When AST levels are greater, it commonly indicates alcoholic liver disease. Elevated ALT and AST enzymes can also be the result of extreme exercise, which causes muscle damage. High AST and ALT levels indicate such conditions as viral hepatitis A or B and liver damage from ingestion of toxins, including an overdose of acetaminophen. The most common cause of mild to moderate elevations in ALT and AST is a fatty liver, which is normally attributed to alcohol abuse but can also result from diabetic conditions and obesity.
High levels of bilirubin can indicate a blood or liver problem. High levels of bilirubin are associated with jaundice, the yellowing of the skin. It can be tied to hepatitis or gall bladder conditions and certain medications, including chemotherapy drugs.
With high bilirubin levels, doctors can prescribe drugs that target the underlying problem that caused the condition. No drugs, though, specifically treat the increased bilirubin levels. If the high levels are associated with drugs that you have ingested, doctors might prescribe reduced medication, or stopping it completely.
Drugs commonly prescribed for patients with severe liver damage include diuretics, often called water pills. They treat fluid retention in cases where your liver is not working properly and you are accumulating fluid in your body. Another common prescription is pain medication. Do not take Tylenol, which may worsen liver damage.
Diet and Nutrition
When elevated liver enzymes are related to anemia, obesity and alcohol, doctors recommend adjusting eating habits. Anemic patients are encouraged to follow diets high in iron or take iron supplements. Meanwhile, obese patients are placed on restrictive low-fat diets to reduce their body fat percentage, and those with alcohol-related conditions are told to stop consuming alcohol.