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Elevated Liver Enzymes
May 2003

Q. My husband is overweight and his family has a history of diabetes. He just received news that he has elevated liver enzymes and the doctor wants to run more tests on him. Of course, we will get the tests run, but we just want to know what are the possibilities since we don't know anything about this condition. What are the possible causes for elevated liver enzymes?

A. Liver enzymes are commonly measured on lab work done for a check-up and other medical visits. It gives us a quick look at liver, kidney, thyroid, and other internal organ function. If the liver is irritated or injured in some way, the enzymes in the liver cells get released into the bloodstream resulting in elevated "LFT's", liver function tests. The enzymes measured are usually the "ALT" and "AST". There are many potential causes of this, so when it occurs, it is important to establish the diagnosis.

Viral hepatitis is one such cause, and this can be tested in the blood to look for hepatitis A, B, or C. Medications can also irritate the liver, and exposure to various toxins can do so as well. Excess alcohol and even excess body weight can cause liver enzyme elevation. Viral hepatitis as a chronic state usually requires evaluation and treatment by a specialist in gastroenterology. The significance and treatment will be determined by the underlying cause.



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