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What Are High Liver Enzyme Levels
High liver enzymes are a symptom that a problem, disease, or condition has developed in the liver. If high liver enzymes go undetected and the problem progresses, there could be significant liver damage before you even know there's trouble.
Most liver problems have no early warning signs or symptoms. That's why it's important to get regular physical check-ups that include tests to screen for high liver enzymes.
These enzymes are also found in other parts of the body, including cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle, kidneys, brain, pancreas and lungs and in both red and white blood cells.
Elevated liver enzymes don't usually indicate a specific liver disease, but they’re probably caused by some form of liver disorder, even if there are no symptoms present.
What causes elevated enzymes? Liver enzymes are proteins which help maintain a variety of chemical and metabolic processes that occur in the liver. The human liver contains thousands of these enzymes, and high enzymes in the liver may indicate damage to liver cells or an obstruction to the biliary tract.
The causes of high enzymes vary widely depending on the level of elevation, and the length of time the problem has been in progress. Common causes of high liver enzymes include:
Autoimmune disorders of the liver and bile ducts, such as autoimmune hepatitis.
Drinking too much alcohol
Excessive use of certain herbal supplements
Infections such as viral hepatitis and mononucleosis
Medications, including certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cholesterol-lowering medications, antibiotics and anti-seizure medications
Metabolic liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease
Tumors of the liver or bile ducts.
To determine the underlying cause of high liver enzymes, your doctor may recommend additional tests. These tests might include a direct physical examination, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, biopsy, and blood tests.
There are few outward symptoms of liver disease. Possible symptoms, however, include pain in the lower right chest region, a noticeable size increase of the liver below the rib cage on the right, and visible jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes).
Treatment of high liver enzymes depends on the cause. It is especially important for you to talk to your doctor about any nutritional or herbal supplements you are taking.
Some Chinese herbal preparations have been found to be extremely damaging to the liver and should be avoided. So too should high doses of vitamin A and acetaminophen, especially if taken with alcohol. Sedatives and all unnecessary medications should also be avoided.
Anyone who is overweight or obese should work with their doctor to try to shed some pounds. High fat, high cholesterol diets can be stressful and damaging to the liver.
Most of all, it's extremely important for anyone with high liver enzymes to avoid alcohol in all forms.