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What are high liver enzymes?

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Quick Answer

Swollen or damaged liver cells secrete elevated amounts of enzymes that can be detected by a blood test. An increased number of liver enzymes in testing indicates swelling or damage to the organ, notes Mayo Clinic.

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What are high liver enzymes?
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Full Answer

The liver is an abdominal organ; its main function is to filter blood from the digestive tract before it reaches the rest of the body. It also purifies chemicals and breaks down drugs, according to WebMD. In newborn babies, high liver enzymes indicate a buildup of bilirubin in the system, often resulting in infant jaundice. High liver enzymes in adults can result from medication and disease.

Routine blood tests can detect alanine transaminase, or ALT, and aspartate transaminase, or AST, two common forms of elevated liver enzymes, says Mayo Clinic. People of all ages test positive for increased liver enzymes. Conditions such as obesity and increased alcohol intake affect liver enzyme levels. Prescription medications, specifically statins used to control cholesterol, can also cause elevated levels. Hepatitis A, B and C; certain cancers; muscular dystrophy; cirrhosis; and many other diseases often contribute to high enzyme results during liver function testing. A doctor can help order further testing and determine the cause, treatment and further prevention of elevated liver enzymes.

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