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Liver Function Test

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What is a liver function test?

A liver function test is a simple medical procedure that examines the levels of bilirubin, liver enzymes and proteins in the blood. It is usually carried out in the event of symptoms relating to the liver, such as jaundice. A liver function test can help to determine liver damage, liver disease and abnormal changes in liver function.

What is bilirubin?

Bilirubin is a substance found in bile. It is produced naturally by the liver as it breaks down erythrocytes (red blood cells), and is expelled in your stools. Poor liver health or a blood disorder can lead to high levels of bilirubin in the blood, which can in turn lead to jaundice, a condition where the skin and the whites of the eyes appear yellow. A liver function test examines the level of bilirubin in the blood to help determine whether there is a problem.

What are liver enzymes?

Enzymes are proteins that help to speed up chemical or metabolic reactions in the body. In the liver, these enzymes help maintain normal function. Liver enzymes include gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT); when there are raised levels of GGT or ALT, this can indicate poor liver health. A liver function test can look at the levels of liver enyzmes such as these – differing levels will indicate differing liver-related conditions.

How do I know if I need a liver function test?

You may require a liver function test if you are suffering from symptoms that are related to liver health. These symptoms include: jaundice, dark urine, pale or bloody stools, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling or pain in the abdomen, vomiting blood, weight change, and fatigue.

You may also need a liver function test if you have been exposed to hepatitis, have a family history of poor liver health, or consume an excessive amount of alcohol. Certain medications can also cause liver damage, and may require regular monitoring of your liver function.

How does a liver function test work?

All that is required for a liver function test is a small blood sample. For this reason, it’s easy to get a home test kit from an online service, taking your own blood sample and sending it back for screening.

In the lab, the blood sample is screened thoroughly. Abnormal results will often indicate a problem with the liver or bile ducts, but sometimes it may be associated with a condition unrelated to the liver – one type of liver enzyme, for instance, can become raised during pregnancy. It’s also important to note that a liver function test is not always successful in determining the problem. If you do have a liver function test and the results are abnormal, you may require further tests.

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