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What Do Elevated Levels of SGOT and SGPT Indicate?

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Elevated levels of SGOT and SGPT usually indicate the presence of a liver disease, although they can also indicate muscle damage.

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Serum glutamic oxalocaetic transaminase (SGOT) is also referred to as aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Serum glutanic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) can also be called alanine transferase (ALT). Both are classified as enzymes that help to evaluate the liver's function to determine its state of health.

Liver Functions
The liver performs many functions and tasks that make the body healthy. It maintains the proper balance of many chemical levels in the body and assists with important functions in organs. One of the liver's duties is to produce bile, which is a substance that aids in digestion. Bile helps keep the digestive system running smoothly by eliminating fats and waste products from the small intestine. The liver also regulates the release of glucose into the body. It eliminates toxins and harmful products from the bloodstream, and it processes hemoglobin to extract iron. The liver supports blood health by producing substances that help the blood clot. It converts ammonia (which is toxic in its original form) into urea. A healthy liver also helps the immune system fend off infections.

Liver Problems
If the liver is damaged or impaired, SGOT and SGPT are released into the bloodstream. Certain external factors (primarily drug and alcohol use) can prevent the liver from functioning properly. Some diseases, including hepatitis, can also impact a liver's ability to function. Regardless of cause, liver problems elevate SGOT and SGPT levels, which are ordinarily low. Because these enzymes are produced in other organs too, including the heart and kidneys, elevated SGOT levels can also indicate a problem with those organs.

Liver Function Test
Doctors usually prescribe a liver function test when patients present with symptoms that might indicate liver trouble. Signs of an affected liver include jaundice (which is a yellowing of the eyes and skin), weakness and fatigue, a swollen stomach, dark urine, light-colored feces, swelling in the legs and feet, loss of appetite and easy bruising. Even if patients are asymptomatic, physicians might prescribe a liver function test if the patients meet certain criteria. Patients who have been exposed to the hepatitis virus are usually instructed to have a liver function test, as are patients who consume large quantities of alcohol. Individuals with a family history of liver problems are also usually advised to have their livers evaluated. Because obesity can cause liver problems, doctors might order a liver function test for obese patients.

While elevated SGOT and SGPT levels can signal several types of liver disorders, one of the most common is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis refers to scarring of the liver. Over time, healthy liver tissue is replaced with hardened, scarred tissue. The problem worsens over time, and can eventually lead to liver failure. Cirrhosis can stem from several causes, including alcoholism, Hepatitis C, diseases of the bile duct and certain genetic diseases.

The test for AST is one of many metabolic tests that a doctor can order. Patients do not need to prepare for the test in any special way, but they should let health care providers know what drugs or supplements they are taking.

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