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Saturday, February 11, 2012
Elevated Liver Enzymes
The most common reason for testing elevated liver enzymes is alcohol use. This is certainly not the only reason though. Your body breaks down and metabolizes about 90% of the medications you take, including
alcohol, through your liver. Tylenol (or acetaminophen) for example is particularly harsh on the liver. On average, an adult liver can only metabolize about 4g (4000 mg) of Tylenol in a 24 hour period. If you overdose on Tylenol you can potentially kill your liver and subsequently kill yourself.
Elevated liver enzymes do not necessarily mean you have overdosed on some medications or that you are drinking too much alcohol.
The Mayo Clinic has this to say about elevated liver enzymes:
Elevated liver enzymes may indicate inflammation or damage to cells in the liver. Inflamed or injured liver cells leak higher than normal amounts of certain chemicals, including liver enzymes, into the bloodstream, which can result in elevated liver enzymes on blood tests.
The specific elevated liver enzymes most commonly found are: Alanine transaminase (ALT) Aspartate transaminase (AST) Elevated liver enzymes may be discovered during routine blood testing. In most cases,
liver enzyme levels are only mildly and temporarily elevated. Most of the time, elevated liver enzymes don't signal a chronic, serious liver problem.
Like the Mayo clinic said: "Most of the time..."
any time you are taking a medication that is metabolized by your liver you will see a rise in liver enzymes. our liver is pretty resilient and bounces back quickly though if abused it can form scar tissue, cancer, calcification, or a number of other problems. Liver enzymes alone do not diagnose poor liver function. if the doctor is concerned about the liver he/she will order subsequent tests such as liver biopsy (large needle into the liver for a core sample).
Usually if your liver is rebelling you will see Signs and Symptoms the most common of which is Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin) and itching. be careful self diagnosing yourself with itching, the mere suggestion of itching often causes people to itch... in fact I'll bet you feel itchy just reading this. If you didn't have a liver you could take one or two drinks of alcohol before you’ve reached a fatal dose. In fact it is our unique livers that cause one to become drunk.
You would live approximately 2-3 very painful days with a completely failed liver (or if it were to be removed from your body). Since your liver is so vascular, if you were to traumatize your liver (like in
“Saving Private Ryan”) you could potentially bleed out rather quickly.
I guess the short answer is; if you are taking any medications and you have liver enzymes checked, you should expect the results to be elevated.