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What are the causes of elevated liver enzymes?

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Quick Answer

Elevated liver enzymes indicate damage to liver cells. Doctors order a liver test panel in new patients during annual physicals and when prescribing certain medications that have the potential for liver damage, according to WebMD. Other reasons for liver test panels include patients showing signs of bile disease or the excessive use of alcohol.

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Full Answer

According to Mayo Clinic, many conditions contribute to elevated liver enzymes. Patients with any form of hepatitis show an elevation in enzymes. Obesity, over-the-counter pain relievers and heart failure also increase these levels. When the test reveals elevated liver enzymes, the patient should speak with his doctor about the meaning of the test results.

WebMD reports that an elevation in the ALS and ALT enzymes in the blood or muscles indicates damaged liver cells are leaking the enzyme. An elevation in the alkaline phosphatase, 5’ nucleotidase and GGT levels indicate problems with the bile flow due to problems with the liver, gallbladder or the duct that connects the two.

WebMD indicates the true liver function test also checks the liver's production of proteins essential for clotting the blood, albumen production and bilirubin levels. The liver produces bilirubin as it breaks down red blood cells, and the body normally excretes it. However, if there is a problem with bile production and bilirubin levels increase, they cause yellowing of the skin and eyes, or jaundice. High bilirubin levels indicate severe liver disease or a problem with the gall bladder.

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