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Why a Routine Liver Function Test is Important

Why a Routine Liver Function Test is Important

Max Lab

Nov 03, 2023

Your liver plays a vital role in keeping your body healthy and functioning properly. From metabolizing nutrients to detoxifying harmful substances, this hard-working organ does it all. However, many people are unaware of the importance of regularly monitoring their liver health through routine liver function tests (LFTs). In this article, we will explore the functions of the liver, common liver conditions and symptoms, as well as highlight the significance of regular LFTs.

Functions of the Liver

The liver is an incredibly vital organ in the human body, performing a multitude of important functions.

  • One of its primary roles is to detoxify harmful substances and metabolize drugs and alcohol.
  • Additionally, it produces bile, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fats.
  • Another crucial function of the liver is the production of proteins that are necessary for blood clotting.
  • The liver also regulates blood sugar levels by storing excess glucose as glycogen and releasing it when needed.
  • Furthermore, the liver plays a key role in filtering out toxins and waste products from the bloodstream.
  • Moreover, this remarkable organ stores essential vitamins such as A, D, E, K, and B12 along with minerals like iron and copper.

Common Liver Conditions and Symptoms:

The liver plays a vital role in the body's overall health, but it is also susceptible to various conditions that can affect its function. Understanding common liver conditions and their symptoms can help you identify any potential issues before they become serious.

1.Hepatitis:

This is inflammation of the liver, often caused by viral infections (such as hepatitis A, B, or C), excessive alcohol consumption, or certain medications. Common symptoms include fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abdominal pain, nausea, and dark urine.

2. Cirrhosis:

This progressive condition occurs when healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue due to long-term damage. It can result from chronic alcohol abuse, hepatitis B or C infection, fatty liver disease, or autoimmune diseases. Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, swelling in the legs and abdomen (ascites), jaundice, and easy bruising.

3. Fatty Liver Disease:

This condition occurs when fat accumulates in the liver cells due to factors such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, or excessive alcohol intake.

It may not cause noticeable symptoms initially but can lead to inflammation (steatohepatitis) and eventually cirrhosis if left untreated.

4. Hemochromatosis:

This genetic disorder causes excessive iron absorption by the body.

Excess iron deposits build up in various organs including the liver leading to damage over time.

Symptoms may include fatigue, abdominal pain, joint pain, and bronze-colored skin

5. Liver Cancer:

Primary cancer originating in the liver called hepatocellular carcinoma is a major concern for individuals with underlying chronic liver disease like cirrhosis

Early signs might be unexplained weight loss abdominal pain jaundice or an enlarged liver

By being aware of these common conditions and their associated symptoms, you can take steps to maintain your liver health and seek medical attention if necessary. 

Importance of Regular LFT Test

Regular liver function tests (LFTs) are vital for maintaining good health. These tests help to monitor the overall functioning of your liver and detect any potential issues at an early stage. By getting routine LFTs, you can take proactive measures to protect and improve the health of your liver.

Liver diseases can often be asymptomatic or show vague symptoms in their early stages. This makes regular LFTs even more important as they can detect these conditions before they progress into more serious complications.

Some common liver conditions that may be identified through LFTs include fatty liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and drug-induced liver injury. Early detection allows for timely intervention and management of these conditions, which can significantly improve outcomes.

In addition to diagnosing liver diseases, regular LFTs also help assess the effectiveness of any ongoing treatments or medications you may be taking for existing liver conditions. Monitoring changes in your test results over time helps healthcare professionals make informed decisions about treatment adjustments if necessary.

Who Should Get a Routine LFT Test?

Now that we understand the importance of liver function tests (LFTs), it's essential to know who should consider getting them on a regular basis. While routine LFTs are not typically part of standard check-ups, they can be crucial in assessing liver health and detecting any potential issues early on.

1. Individuals with Risk Factors: People with certain risk factors should definitely consider getting routine LFTs. These include individuals who have a history of alcohol abuse, obesity, diabetes, or viral hepatitis.

2. Those Experiencing Symptoms: If you are experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gain, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), dark urine, abdominal pain or swelling, it is recommended to consult your healthcare provider and discuss the need for an LFT.

3. Monitoring Chronic Liver Conditions: Patients diagnosed with chronic liver conditions like cirrhosis or fatty liver disease may require regular monitoring through LFTs to assess disease progression and determine appropriate treatment plans.

4. Pre-Existing Health Conditions: Certain medical conditions like high cholesterol levels or autoimmune disorders can affect liver health indirectly. In such cases, routine LFTs can help identify any related issues and enable timely intervention.

Remember that each individual's situation is unique; therefore, consulting with a healthcare professional is always advisable before deciding whether to undergo routine LFTs.

Preparing for a Liver Function Test

Before undergoing a liver function test (LFT), it's important to be well-prepared. While these tests are generally safe and non-invasive, proper preparation can help ensure accurate results. Here are some key steps to follow:

1. Consult with your healthcare provider: Talk to your doctor about the specific instructions for preparing for an LFT. They may advise you on any dietary restrictions or medication adjustments that need to be made prior to the test.

2. Fasting: In many cases, fasting is required before an LFT. This means refraining from eating or drinking anything except water for a certain period of time, usually 8-12 hours before the test. Make sure to follow this guideline precisely as instructed by your healthcare provider.

3. Medications: Inform your doctor about all medications, supplements, and herbal remedies you are currently taking. Some medications can affect liver enzymes and may need to be temporarily stopped or adjusted before the test.

4. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water leading up to the test unless otherwise advised by your doctor.

Understanding the LFT Test Results

Once you've undergone a liver function test, it's important to understand what the results mean. The test measures certain enzymes and proteins in your blood that indicate how well your liver is functioning. Understanding these results can help identify any potential issues or abnormalities.

 

Liver test

Indications

Typical and atypical ranges

ALT test

An abnormally high score on this test may indicate liver damage.

The most common causes of extremely high levels over 1,000 units per liter (U/L) are drug or chemical-related injuries, ischemic hepatitis, and viral hepatitis.

In most cases, additional testing and assessment are necessary when an ALT is greater than 25 international units per liter (IU/L) in females and 33 IU/L in males.

AST test

An elevated AST test result could point to a liver or muscle issue. Heart or muscle problems may be indicated by increased AST but not ALT. ALP, ALT, and bilirubin elevations may also be signs of liver disease.

Adults typically have an AST range of up to 36 U/L; however, newborns and young children may have a greater range.

ALP test

Elevated levels of ALP could be a sign of bone illness, bile duct obstruction, or inflammation of the liver.

Because their bones are forming, children and adolescents may have higher levels of ALPTrusted Source. ALP levels can also rise during pregnancy. Adults typically have an ALP range of 20–140 IU/LTrusted Source.

Albumin test

Your liver may not be operating at optimal capacity if you receive a low score on this test. This happens in conditions including cancer, cirrhosis, and starvation.

Albumin typically ranges from 35 to 50 grammes per liter (g/L). Low albumin, however, can also be brought on by inflammation, infection, and kidney disease.

Bilirubin test

A high bilirubin test result could mean that the liver isn't working well. Increased ALT or AST along with high bilirubin values may indicate hepatitis or cirrhosis.

The normal range for total bilirubin is often between 0.1 and 1.2 mg/dL.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Liver Health

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial for supporting optimal liver function and preventing liver disease. Here are some simple yet effective changes you can make to improve your liver health.

It's important to maintain a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoiding processed foods high in sugar, saturated fats, and additives can help reduce the burden on your liver.

Regular exercise is another essential component of improving liver health. Engaging in physical activity not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also improves blood circulation and promotes overall well-being.

Limiting alcohol consumption is vital for protecting your liver from damage. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to conditions such as fatty liver disease or cirrhosis. It's recommended that men should limit their alcohol intake to two drinks per day while women should stick to one drink per day.

Managing stress levels plays an integral role in preserving liver health. Chronic stress has been linked to various liver conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver.

Conclusion

In today's fast-paced world, it is easy to overlook our health and neglect routine check-ups. However, when it comes to our liver health, we cannot afford to take any risks. The liver plays a vital role in detoxifying our body, producing essential proteins, and regulating various bodily functions. Therefore, it is crucial that we prioritize regular Liver Function Tests (LFTs) to ensure the well-being of this incredible organ.

By getting routine LFTs, we can detect potential liver conditions at an early stage when they are easier to manage and treat. Whether you have a history of liver disease or not, everyone should consider including LFTs as part of their annual full body health check-up. It allows us to stay proactive about our health and prevent serious complications down the line.

So let us prioritize routine Liver Function Tests as part of our overall wellness strategy! By doing so diligently and making positive lifestyle changes along the way; we can support this remarkable organ in carrying out its vital functions more efficiently – ensuring good health now and in years ahead!

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