Monitor Liver Health with Function Tests

The liver is one of the most vital organs in the body, responsible for numerous essential functions such as detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs, producing bile to help digest food, and storing glycogen for energy. It is crucial to maintain the health of the liver, as any damage or disease can have serious consequences for overall health.

One of the ways to check the health of the liver is through a Liver Function Test (LFT), also known as a liver enzyme test. This test measures the levels of various enzymes and proteins in the blood that are produced by the liver. Abnormal levels of these markers can indicate liver damage or disease.

There are several enzymes and proteins that are commonly tested in an LFT, including:

1. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST): These enzymes are released into the blood when the liver is damaged or inflamed. Elevated levels of ALT and AST can indicate liver disease, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.

2. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): This enzyme is produced by the liver and is also found in the bones, intestines, and placenta. Elevated levels of ALP can indicate liver disease, bile duct obstruction, or bone disorders.

3. Bilirubin: This is a waste product produced by the liver when it breaks down old red blood cells. Elevated levels of bilirubin can indicate liver disease or bile duct obstruction.

4. Albumin and total protein: These are proteins produced by the liver. Low levels of albumin and total protein can indicate liver disease or malnutrition.

A liver function test may be ordered if a person is experiencing symptoms of liver disease, such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or fatigue. It may also be ordered as part of a routine health check-up or if a person is at risk for liver disease due to factors such as heavy alcohol consumption, obesity, or a family history of liver disease.

Interpreting the results of a liver function test can be complex, as abnormal levels do not always indicate liver disease. For example, elevated levels of ALT and AST can also be caused by muscle injury or certain medications. Therefore, it is important for a healthcare provider to consider the results in the context of a person’s overall health and medical history.

If the results of a liver function test are abnormal, further testing may be needed to determine the cause of the liver damage or disease. This may include imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI, or a liver biopsy to directly evaluate the health of the liver tissue.

In conclusion, a liver function test is a valuable tool for assessing the health of the liver and diagnosing liver disease. Regular monitoring of liver function can help detect liver disease at an early stage, when it is more treatable. If you have concerns about the health of your liver, talk to your healthcare provider about whether a liver function test is appropriate for you.