The liver is a very important organ as its job is to filter all the blood in your body. It continually filters toxins, drugs, wastes generated from the body, chemicals and alcohol. A healthy liver is necessary for the body to function correctly.
Why the Recent Increase in Liver Damage?
- Increased use of prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs
- Increased alcohol consumption
The liver has to break down alcohol and drugs to remove it from the body. Excess of either drugs or alcohol can damage the liver. Increasingly, people are mixing both drugs (e.g. Acetaminophen) and alcohol which can lead to acute liver failure.
Cool Facts about the Liver
- It’s the only internal organ that can regenerate itself
- The liver stores vitamins (fat soluble) and minerals (i.e. iron) and releases them to the blood as necessary
- It produces bile to break down fats
There is a blood test (also know as a hepatic function test) to screen the liver to see if it is functioning normally.
Levels for the following are included in the test:
- liver enzymes
- blood proteins
Understanding the Liver Function Test Results
There are many acronyms associated with the different components and there are acceptable levels that physicians use to help diagnose problems with the liver:
Albumin, Globulin and Total Protein – Measures the amount and type of protein in your blood. They are a useful index of overall health and nutrition. Abnormal results are an indicator of malnutrition, liver or kidney disease, cirrhosis, multiple meyloma, sarcoid, amyloid, lupus, and/or major infections. Globulin is the “antibody” protein important for fighting disease. If one of these values is high, but the other values are within expected ranges, the result is probably not significant, but only your physician can confirm this.
LDH (Lactate Dehydrogenase) – An enzyme found in blood and tissues. Elevated levels are found in various diseases including myocardial infarction, cancer, and anemia. A hemolyzed blood specimen can falsely elevate levels. Slightly decreased levels are usually insignificant but only your physician can confirm this.
Gamma GT (GGT) – A liver enzyme whose elevation may indicate liver disease. Moderate intake of alcohol and some common medications may cause elevated levels to occur.
Bilirubin – Primary pigment in bile. It is derived from hemoglobin and processed by the liver, and builds up when the liver is functioning poorly or when some other disorder reduces the normal flow of bile. It is increased also when there has been destruction of red blood cells.
AST & ALT – Injury to cells releases these enzymes into the blood. Liver disease and heart attacks, as well as serious physical injury can cause elevation of these values. Low values are probably not significant, but can only be confirmed by your physician.
Common Liver Diseases
Fatty liver disease -Fatty liver disease when there is extra fat in the liver cells and is typically associated with those that drink too much alcohol. This type of diseases generally does not have any symptoms. If diagnosed, fatty liver disease will go away once alcohol is eliminated from the diet.
Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis causes the liver to swell and become damagedHepatitis C – Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation.
Cirrhosis – Cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver; hard scar tissue replaces soft healthy tissue Cirrhosis occurs in response to chronic damage to your liver.
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