Proper functioning of your liver is essential to keep proteins and enzymes at their optimal levels. As liver helps clean your system and also enables storage of needful energies, health of liver gains an added significance. Liver function test can tell if your liver is in good shape. Most of the symptoms associated with liver problems are very common. It may be required to have a watchful eye over changes in appetite, anomalies in the color of your eyes or skin – as these signs may indicate a likely risk to the normal functioning of your liver.
Your liver is one great filter. Its main function is to filter out impurities from your blood. Before the blood from your gastrointestinal tract goes to other parts of your body, your liver cleans it. This organ thus ensures your body gains access to a pure form of blood – i.e., devoid of toxins or any waste materials. Liver also provides your body with proteins necessary to clot blood and also helps store nutrients, sugars, etc. Not stopping with these, your liver produces juices to help your body to digest foods you eat.
The most common disorders affecting liver are cirrhosis, cancers, hepatitis, formation of gallstones, failure of liver, etc. Cirrhosis is not an overnight occurrence; instead, it takes a fairly long time for it to show up. This condition can occur due to an excessive consumption of alcohol, an untreated infection of your liver (such as hepatitis B or C) and being overweight or obese. Commonly observed cancerous growth in liver – known as hepatocellular carcinoma – is linked to the incidence of cirrhosis. Hepatitis denotes an inflammation or swelling of your liver. This is triggered by viral attacks – most common among such viruses are hepatitis A, B or C. Apart from viral attacks, it can show up due to non-contagious reasons as well, especially being addicted to alcohol or obesity. In some cases, consumption of drugs causing allergies can lead to a swollen liver.
Gallbladder – this organ is seen below your liver – helps in digestion by secreting a fluid called as bile. When there is a build-up of cholesterol in the bile, the undissolved fats can turn into stones. Your gallbladder may also contain stones if your bile has a higher concentration of bilirubin. These stones can be as big as a ping pong ball or as small as grains of sand.
Liver function test
Tests done to understand how your liver functions focus on the level of proteins and enzymes in your blood. As your liver assumes a multi-functional role, a dysfunction can lead to serious implications. The liver function test is done by drawing a small sample of blood. This is drawn from a site – in the arm – especially, near the elbow. Your doctor may advise taking these tests across a few weeks. Such tests may help understand how the levels of proteins or enzymes vary with time. Key enzymes and proteins whose levels the liver function test helps to understand include-Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
The most widely utilized enzyme in your liver is aspartate aminotransferase (AST, also labelled as SGOT). It may also be found in the cells of your muscles, brain, heart, lungs, pancreas, etc. When your blood contains excessive amounts of AST or SGOT, it signifies a likely liver dysfunction. Why? A liver disorder is a possible reason for its inability to contain this enzyme within it, and thus making it to blend with blood in copious quantities. However, as AST is also found in other sites, it is not a direct indicator of a possible liver condition. So, as compared to AST, medical experts lay more emphasis on the levels of a fellow-enzyme called ALT. Hence, ALT is considered a better diagnostic-marker to understand the health of liver.
Normal reference range for SGOT is 5 to 35 units per liter. Per liter here refers to a liter of serum. Level of SGOT reflects the condition of your liver’s efficiency levels. A higher value indicates a likely injury or damage of the liver. But, you need to remember that this enzyme is also found in your muscular cells. Hence, an increased count can represent a possible damage of your muscles. So, your doctor may conduct a careful examination of your muscles and liver to ascertain your present medical condition. Often, an escalated level is linked to the possibility of liver cirrhosis.
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT, also labelled as SGPT)
This enzyme is found in greater proportion in your liver. But, it is also found in your muscles and kidneys to a limited extent. A likely injury or damage to your liver may increase its concentration level in your blood. The normal range of reference for concentration of SGPT is 7 to 56 units per liter of serum. When this level reaches 250 units per liter, a liver injury may not necessarily be a reason. Your doctor may have to diagnose the condition of your kidneys, muscles or heart. However, when the level of ALT crosses 490 units per liter, it is generally due to a liver condition. The likely causes of such an escalated level include presence of excessive toxins in liver, ischemic liver condition or due to an inflammation (hepatitis).
It has been observed that hepatitis C is very likely to escalate the levels of ALT much more than hepatitis A or B. If your liver tests indicate a constant hike in ALT level for more than 25 weeks, it is considered as a chronic condition. Apart from hepatitis, obesity among children and fatty liver conditions (either as a congenital or an overweight condition) can also cause changes to ALT levels.
This is secreted from your bile as well as through urine. It is observed in two distinct variants namely, conjugated and unconjugated bilirubin. Conjugated bilirubin is soluble in water while its unconjugated variant is soluble in fats. A damage of your liver or hepatitis caused by a viral infection is a likely reason for an increase in conjugated bilirubin. Its normal range is 0.05 to 0.35 mg / dL. On the other hand, unconjugated bilirubin is a catabolic outcome of red cells of your blood. Your liver conjugates this variant with the help of an enzyme. The normal range of unconjugated bilirubin in is 0.1 to 0.65 mg / dL. Also, the normal range of total bilirubin is 0.1 to 1.0 mg / dL. When the share of total bilirubin crosses 1.5x the normal upper limit, this condition is diagnosed as a possible liver injury or damage. When the range crosses 2x, it is treated as jaundice.
A few other conditions like say, an acute spell of appendicitis can increase the total bilirubin level by more than five to six times its normal upper limit.
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
This enzyme is seen in cells found on the walls of ducts carrying bile. However, the same enzyme is also present in your kidneys, bones and on the walls or linings of small intestine. The normal range of ALP is noted as 40 to 133 units per liter. An escalation from this range is often observed during a spell of hepatitis. Also, a moderate increase beyond the range is seen during cirrhosis of liver as well as myocardial infraction or a congestion of your cardiac muscles. As this enzyme is also seen in the placenta, pregnant women have higher levels of ALP (in the range of 200 units per liter or even more) can be observed in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.
This is a type of protein your liver makes. Albumin makes for a significant portion of proteins made in liver. The normal range of albumin is 3.5 to 5.3 g / dL. Hence, a diminished presence of albumin indicates a possible damage – especially, cirrhosis of the liver. You may need to note that a kidney disorder may also drain away albumin through urine.
Like albumin, it is another protein that your liver makes. Its normal range is 2.3 to 3.5 gm / dL. When globulin levels fall below its normal range, it can signify a liver dysfunction or a renal disorder. On the other hand, a higher level of globulin indicates autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, cancers, etc.
In essence, liver function test is performed if you are experiencing various signs of a likely liver damage. The test can help assess damage of your liver due to infections or regular intake of a few medicines. The liver function test can also help track the progress of a treatment plan and check improvements in the health of your liver. Of the many parameters, albumin level is an indication of your liver’s ability to make albumin while bilirubin level shows the efficiency at which it is disposed. ALP is an indicator of the health of your bile ducts while AST and ALT related tests are done to check damages or injuries in your liver.
Your doctor may provide needful medical attention even for a slight escalation of the above levels. This is because such increases can be due to an underlying liver condition. In general, you are advised to take your liver health with topmost priority as some disorders can be near-fatal in nature.