What Is Transaminitis and How Is It Tested For?

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Transaminitis is characterized by high levels of transaminases in the blood. These are a type of liver enzyme.

Transaminitis Basics The liver works to filter out toxins and break down nutrients so that the body has what it needs while eliminating what shouldn’t be there. Enzymes are what ensure it’s able to work efficiently. When the levels of enzymes in the liver get too high, they travel to the bloodstream. Transaminases are some of the most important enzymes responsible for aiding the liver, and the two types that play the biggest role in transaminitis include aspartate transaminase and alanine transaminase, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Most patients with this condition are unaware of its presence due to symptoms not occurring. This condition does not directly cause symptoms but it’s used as a diagnostic tool. In some cases, liver enzymes are elevated for a short time without an underlying cause. However, certain potentially chronic conditions might also lead to it, such as hepatitis or liver disease. Certain medications might also cause this issue, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, cardiovascular medications, statins for high cholesterol and cyclic antidepressants. Because of this, doctors generally perform additional testing when transaminitis is present.

Alanine Transaminase Alanine transaminase (ALT) is a type of enzyme located mostly in kidney and liver cells, states Medscape. This enzyme takes alanine, which is a type of amino acid located in proteins and converts it into pyruvate. This helps to ensure proper cellular energy production. When a person is healthy, the levels of ALT in the blood are typically low. However, this enzyme is released into the blood when liver starts to become damaged. This can happen before liver disease shows any obvious symptoms. This makes testing for this enzyme useful for early detection of liver disease or damage.

While liver issues are mostly why doctors choose to test for ALT levels, other issues might elevate it too. Skeletal and heart muscle damage can cause elevation. For example, following a heart attack, ALT levels might be slightly elevated.

Aspartate Transaminase Aspartate transaminase (AST) is in cells all throughout the body, but this enzyme is most concentrated in the liver and heart, according to Medscape. It works to trigger chemical reactions that the body relies on for optimal function. Levels are generally low in those who are healthy. However, when muscle or liver cells become injured, this releases the AST enzyme into the blood, causing elevated levels. Because of this, blood testing for AST levels can be beneficial when doctors are seeking to diagnose liver disease or damage.

Liver issues aren’t the only reason this enzyme might be elevated. Other reasons include pregnancy, strenuous exercise, acute burns and getting a medicine or vaccine injected into a muscle.

Liver Function Testing This is a type of blood test performed to determine ALT and AST levels in the blood. It’s able to provide doctors with some information concerning overall liver health and function. A small sample of blood taken via inserting a needle into a vein is what’s required. This is then analyzed in a laboratory.