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When Should I Go for a Liver Function Test

When Should I Go for a Liver Function Test

Max Lab

Mar 21, 2022

The liver is the second largest organ in the body and plays an important role in maintaining overall health. While its primary function is to remove toxins from the body, it also processes nutrients from food, produces bile, and stores, utilises, and supplies energy. With the pivotal role played by the liver in the human body, maintaining its health should be a priority for everyone.

What is a Liver Function Test (LFT)?

Liver function tests (LFTs) are blood tests that are performed to measure the levels of substances like enzymes and proteins that are produced by the liver,to check the overall health and functioning of the organ. Apart from regular LFTs for tracking liver health, showing symptoms of liver disease are another situation when a liver function test can beused for diagnosis of the issue.

The Purpose of a Liver Function Test

There are several uses of an LFT test, including for diagnosis in case a person is experiencing symptoms that a liver disease causes, for checking the progression of liver disease, to monitor how the treatment of a liver issue is progressing, to check the level of damage or scarring of the liver caused by diseases like cirrhosis, or to monitor side effects caused by certain medication.

When is a Liver Function Test Used?

One of the primary uses of a Liver Function Test (LFT) is to detect a disease or condition of the liver. It is generally prescribed if a person starts showing symptoms of liver disease. Some of the common symptoms that the liver disease may cause include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constant lethargy
  • Jaundice, which includes yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Pale skin
  • Dark urine
  • Light-coloured stools
  • Bruising easily
  • Swollen ankles or legs
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Itchy skin

People with high-risk factors may also be asked to get an LFT performed on a regular basis to keep a check on their liver. Risk factors for liver diseases include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history of liver diseases
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having type 2 diabetes
  • Being on medication that may affect the liver

When Should One Get an LFT Done?

If one is worried about medical conditions affecting the liver, showing abnormal symptoms, consumes alcohol regularly, is on performance-enhancing drugs, is undergoing treatment for a liver-related issue, or has high risk factors for liver diseases, they should opt for a liver function test for the purpose of diagnosis and monitoring.

What is the Best Time for a Liver Function Test (LFT): The best time to get a liver function test performed is in the morning hours, as an overnight fast is generally required before the test.

Types of Liver Function Tests

A liver function test includes several types of tests that check for inflammation, injury, damage, and functioning of the liver. These tests can broadly be categorized as function tests and liver enzyme tests.

Function Tests

  • Serum Albumin Test: This measures the levels of albumin, which is a protein found in the blood. Low levels of albumin may indicate abnormal liver function.
  • Serum Bilirubin Test: This test determines the levels of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is produced by the liver and excreted in bile and raised levels of bilirubin may indicate a problem in the liver’s bile processing function or an obstructed flow of bile.
  • Serum Globulin Test: The test measures levels of the globulin protein. While low levels may indicate liver disease, high levels can indicate anything from dehydration, infections, and inflammation to cancers and autoimmune diseases.
  • Prothrombin Time (PT):This test checks how long a person’s blood takes to clot. A prolonged clotting period may be indicative of liver disease.

Liver Enzyme Tests

  • Alanine Transaminase (ALT): Measures ALT levels in the blood. The ALT enzyme is mostly found in the liver and is released into the blood in case of acute liver cell damage.
  • Aspartate Transaminase (AST):Measures AST levels in the blood. Raised AST levels may indicate liver problems like acute liver cell damage.
  • Serum Alkaline Phosphatase Test (ALP):The test measures the levels of the alkaline phosphatase enzyme to assess liver function or to detect lesions on the liver.
  • Gamma-Glutamyl Transpeptidase (GGT) Test: Performed to assess liver function, detecting alcohol ingestion, and for getting information about liver conditions, this test measures the level of the GGT enzyme. The enzyme is produced in the liver, pancreas, and biliary tract, and in case of liver damage, may leak into the bloodstream, leading to elevated levels of GGT.

Interpretation of Liver Function Test Results

Abnormal levels of proteins and enzymes that are tracked under a liver function test may not always be indicative of liver disease or condition. There are several conditions, from dehydration to having recently passed a bile duct stone, which can affect the levels of the various enzymes and proteins in the blood. Proper interpretation of a liver function test result requires factoring in all risk factors, the patient’s overall health, and other aspects. That is why it is necessary to consult one’s doctor with the LFT results, so they can offer a proper diagnosis, prescribe further testing (if required), and chart out a treatment plan.

Early diagnosis plays a crucial role in the successful treatment of liver diseases and conditions.That is why it is important to never ignore any symptoms of abnormal liver function and opt for a liver function test at the earliest.

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