Blood Tests For Determining Liver Function
Liver function is very important for biotransformation, i.e. the transformation of substances that enter our body (medicines or toxins) into forms that ware not harmful to our systems. These substances can be transformed in the liver into less toxic or water-soluble substances that will be easier to get excreted through kidneys or pancreas from our body. However, bio-transformation of alcohol, medicines and other toxins leaves damage to the liver.
During process itself toxic metabolites produce, most often free radicals (O2, HOO). That are highly reactive and quickly cause peroxidation of lipids, most often lipids of the cell membrane, which causes damage and death of liver cells.
The liver has numerous enzymes it releases into the blood when the liver damage, such as AST and ALT. These enzymes reach maximum value in blood when acute liver damage occurs. Blood tests serve to determine or confirm liver damage/illness, i.e. to evaluate existence and severity of liver cell damage, or the cholestasis, in the case when illness attacks pancreas cells.
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AST And ALT:
AST and ALT are liver enzymes that indicate liver (cells) damage. Their value rises proportionally to liver damage, i.e. the higher value of these enzymes-the higher liver damage. They can indicate different types of health issues, but most often their value indicates intoxication with medicines (such as steroids, some antibiotics, pain-killers) or alcohol.
What is AST?
AST or Aspartate transaminase; Serum glutamic- oxaloacetic transaminase is a liver enzyme that usually tests in blood to determine and follow liver cell damage. AST is present in:
- Skeletal muscles
- Red blood cells
In blood is usually present in low concentration. When cells damage, AST releases in blood in larger volume. In order to determine liver cell damage, AST is usually tested with ALT, because ALT is more specific and will be present in blood in elevated value only when liver cells are damaged. AST can indicate other illnesses besides liver cell damage. Therefore, sole AST testing for liver cell damage is limited.
Increased AST values can indicate:
- Acute myocardium disease
- Muscle damage
- Muscle illness (progressive muscle dystrophy, dermatomycosis)
- Acute liver damage (in virus hepatitis, cirrhosis)
It has been determined that after intensive work out, AST values can triple. In this case, testing should be repeated after the period of rest to determine if there an actual liver damage. With acute liver damage, levels of AST and Alt ca increase up to 100 times above referent value.
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The reference value of AST is 8 to 38 U/L.
What is ALT?
ALT or serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase (SGPT) or alanine aminotransferase is an enzyme that is primarily present in liver and kidneys but can also be located in heart and muscles. In blood is present in low values. Its value will increase in blood after cell damage. ALT testing is ok to discover and track liver cell damage and usually tested along with AST. The reference value of ALT is 10 to 48 U/L.
Liver Damage or Not:
The liver has excellent regeneration ability and can perform its function effectively with only half of the liver tissue healthy. However, liver illnesses often don’t express symptoms until its’ too late. Liver damage can be acute or chronic, and in the case when it’s acute it usually has limited effect and liver will recover quickly, with appropriate health treatment.
In some cases, blood tests that show elevated values of AST or ALT will show normal values after it repeats, which indicated that blood tests for liver damage are the only indicator of a possible problem, and can’t be taken into account solely, without additional testing.
Generally, AST and ALT blood tests have limited ability to determine liver damage. Elevated value of AST and ALT will be only a starting point for further testing to confirm possible liver damage, and to determine appropriate therapy for treatment of liver damage. Anabolic steroids can cause liver damage in taken inappropriately, in which case treatment will be necessary to enable liver regeneration.