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Liver » Liver Transplant

Liver Function Tests- Why Do You Need It and How Can You Get One

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Your liver has over five hundred responsibilities to take care of in your body. If anyone were to tell you that this organ is very much significant in keeping you alive, they wouldn't be exaggerating.

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If your liver malfunctions for some reason, then it can’t help break down food, hormones, insulin, etc., store sugar glucose and vitamins,  your blood, make essential proteins and perform all its other duties.

Your physical and cognitive functions will suffer. Eventually, depending upon the rate of degradation of your liver, the results could be fatal.

Introducing Liver Function Tests

If something seems to be wrong with you and a doctor suspects that the sudden changes have to do with a liver anomaly, you will have to get a few liver function tests done.

Some of these tests will check your body for different enzyme and protein levels. A few others will be directed at determining how well your organs are functioning. Some might focus on your blood work.

When to Know That You Need to Be Tested

There are over a hundred liver diseases that humans know of definitively. Pinpointing what you have (or that you have any) is not something that can be achieved with noticing a few symptoms.

However, if you notice dark urine, light stool, yellow eyes, yellow skin, a disappearing appetite, swelling around the belly, ankles, or feet, constant fatigue, nausea, weakness, or experience a few fainting spells, it is time to see a doctor.

Remember that the symptoms mentioned above could mean many other diseases as well. However, the doctor is likely to suggest a liver function test if you are a heavy drinker, obese, overweight, with a family history containing liver diseases, or just with graver symptoms.

How Many Types of Liver Function Tests Are There?

Among the long list of tests that answer your question, here are a few common ones that a doctor is more likely to throw in their conversation with you.

  • Prothrombin Time test measures the time taken by your blood to clot. Longer clotting duration could denote liver damage.
  • Bilirubin Test measures the bilirubin level in your blood. A functioning liver clears it out of the body. Thus, high numbers could mean liver damage.
  • Alkaline phosphatase test looks for ALP enzyme levels which rise in case of a liver/bile duct/bone disease.
  • Aspartate transaminase test looks for AST enzyme levels, which denote damage when found in high number.
  • Albumin/protein tests look for albumin and globulin concentrations in the liver. Since the organ makes these two, lower numbers would mean the loss of liver function.
  • Gamma-glutamyltransferase test checks for high levels of GGT enzyme which could mean an injured liver or bile duct. 
  • L-lactate dehydrogenase test looks for the levels of LD enzyme. It should be present in small numbers.
  • Alanine transaminase test figures out ALT enzyme levels. It helps break down proteins. If found in high quantity, it could indicate liver injury.

What Should You Do Before Going for a Liver Test?

Almost all liver function tests require a tiny amount of blood from you. Over the span of a week or more, these tests are conducted more than once to understand the fluctuating levels of different enzymes, proteins, etc.

While the doctors should warn you on food, medication, and activities that you need to avoid before getting tested, be proactive and make sure you have the full list of what not to do before and after the test.

If you are on a supplement, herbal medicines, or any drugs, be sure to inform your medical team about them.

So the Test Results Can Tell If You Have a Liver Condition?

If there are enzymes in your body that shouldn’t be there, if your blood contains particles that it shouldn’t, if you have high quantities of certain proteins that you wouldn’t usually have, the test result will show that and conclude with an understanding that something is wrong with you.

The test results will confirm or deny whether something funny is going on with your liver or not. However, it doesn’t clarify what disease or disorder has caused the results. You will have further tests to determine that.

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