What do high liver enzymes indicate?


Quick Answer

Liver enzymes are sometimes elevated due to a side effect of certain medications or use of alcohol. Obesity and fatty liver disease are other causes. Hepatitis A, B and C cause the levels to increase as does heart failure, reports Mayo Clinic. Other causes include cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, heart attack and other diseases.

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Full Answer

Most of the time, the elevation is mild and does not indicate a serious condition, according to Mayo Clinic. Elevated liver enzymes, often discovered during routine blood testing, indicate damaged or inflamed liver cells. These cells leak additional enzymes into the blood.

The liver performs several vital functions, including filtering toxins from the blood and metabolizing nutrients. It requires enzymes to drive the chemical reactions necessary for these processes. Doctors often order a liver function panel as part of routine blood work when establishing new patients and as a part of annual physicals, according to WebMD. Doctors also order these tests for patients taking certain medications that are likely to cause liver damage, have liver disease, have symptoms such as jaundice or use alcohol excessively.

Most labs test for aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase. If both the ASA and AST results are elevated in the blood, WebMD reports there is likely damage to the liver.

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