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Overview of Elevated Liver Enzymes: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Team AckoJan 18, 2024

If you're concerned about your liver health or simply want to learn more about Elevated Liver Enzymes (ELE), you've come to the right place. In this article, we will delve into the meaning, symptoms, causes, treatment options, prevention tips, when to seek medical assistance, and prognosis of ELE. So, let's get started!




What are Elevated Liver Enzymes?

Elevated Liver Enzymes refer to higher than normal levels of liver enzymes in the blood. It indicates that the liver is not functioning at its optimal level and may be a sign of an underlying liver condition or damage. ELE are also known as liver function test abnormalities. 

Liver enzymes are proteins produced by the liver cells that play a crucial role in various metabolic processes. These enzymes are responsible for breaking down substances and aiding in digestion. 

Symptoms of Elevated Liver Enzymes

In most cases, Elevated Liver Enzymes do not cause noticeable symptoms on their own. However, the underlying liver condition may present with symptoms such as follows.

  • Fatigue

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort

  • Jaundice 

  • Dark urine

  • Pale stools

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Unexplained weight loss

Causes of Elevated Liver Enzymes

There are several factors that can lead to Elevated Liver Enzymes. These include the following. 

  • Liver diseases: Conditions like hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and alcoholic liver disease can cause ELE.

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as statins, antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, and over-the-counter pain relievers, can affect liver enzyme levels.

  • Alcohol consumption: Heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage and ELE.

  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease, which can lead to ELE.

  • Infections: Infections like mononucleosis and cytomegalovirus can cause liver inflammation and ELE.

Treatment for Elevated Liver Enzymes

The treatment for Elevated Liver Enzymes depends on the underlying cause. It is important to address the root cause of the elevated levels to prevent further liver damage. Treatment options may include the following. 

  • Lifestyle changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and limiting alcohol consumption can improve liver health.

  • Medications: If a specific liver condition is diagnosed, medications may be prescribed to manage the underlying disease.

  • Weight loss: For individuals with fatty liver disease, losing weight through a combination of diet and exercise can help reduce liver enzyme levels.

  • Avoidance of hepatotoxic substances: It is important to avoid substances that can further damage the liver, such as excessive alcohol, certain medications, and illicit drugs.

Prevention tips for maintaining liver health

Prevention is key when it comes to maintaining liver health and preventing Elevated Liver Enzymes. Here are some tips to keep your liver healthy.

  • Limit alcohol consumption: Drink alcohol in moderation or avoid it altogether.

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Aim for a healthy body weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.

  • Practise safe sex: Use protection to reduce the risk of hepatitis B and C transmission.

  • Get vaccinated: Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B are available and can help protect against these infections.

  • Practise good hygiene: Wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of infections that can affect the liver.

  • Be cautious with medications: Follow the recommended dosage and consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medications or supplements.

When to seek medical assistance?

If you experience persistent or severe symptoms associated with ELE, it is important to seek medical assistance. Additionally, if you have risk factors such as a history of liver disease, excessive alcohol consumption, or exposure to hepatotoxic substances, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.

What is the prognosis for Elevated Liver Enzymes?

The prognosis for ELE depends on the underlying cause and the extent of liver damage. Many times, if the underlying condition is identified and treated early, liver enzyme levels can go back to normal, and the liver can heal itself. However, in more severe cases or if liver damage progresses, it can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, or liver failure, which may require more intensive treatment or liver transplantation.

What are the risk factors for Elevated Liver Enzymes?

Elevated Liver Enzymes can be influenced by various risk factors. Understanding these risk factors can help identify individuals who may be more susceptible to developing ELE. Here are some common risk factors.

  • Excessive alcohol consumption: Heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage and ELE. The liver metabolises alcohol, and excessive intake can cause inflammation and damage to liver cells.

  • Obesity and Fatty Liver Disease: Obesity is strongly associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterised by the accumulation of fat in the liver. NAFLD can lead to ELE and liver inflammation.

  • Viral hepatitis infections: Infections caused by hepatitis viruses, such as hepatitis A, B, and C, can result in liver inflammation and ELE. These viruses are transmitted through contaminated food or water (hepatitis A), blood or sexual contact (hepatitis B and C).

  • Medications and supplements: Certain medications and dietary supplements can cause liver toxicity and elevated liver enzyme levels. Examples include acetaminophen (Tylenol), statins, antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, and high-dose vitamin A supplements.

  • Metabolic disorders: Metabolic disorders like diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome can increase the risk of developing fatty liver disease and subsequently Elevated Liver Enzymes.

  • Autoimmune diseases: Autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune hepatitis and primary biliary cholangitis can lead to liver inflammation and ELE.

  • Hereditary conditions: Some hereditary conditions, such as Wilson's disease, hemochromatosis, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, can result in liver damage and ELE.

  • Certain toxins and chemicals: Exposure to certain toxins, chemicals, or industrial pollutants can contribute to liver damage and ELE. These toxins may be found in pesticides, solvents, and heavy metals.

  • Age and gender: Age and gender can also be risk factors. For example, older individuals may be more susceptible to liver damage due to cumulative effects over time. Males are generally at a higher risk than females for developing ELE.

How to diagnose Elevated Liver Enzymes

Diagnosing Elevated Liver Enzymes involves a series of steps to identify the underlying cause and assess the extent of liver damage. Here are the common methods used for diagnosis.

  • Medical history and physical examination: The healthcare provider will begin by taking a detailed medical history, including any symptoms experienced, alcohol consumption, medication use, exposure to toxins, and risk factors for liver disease. A physical examination may also be conducted to check for signs of liver disease, such as abdominal tenderness or an enlarged liver.

  • Blood tests: Blood tests are essential for assessing liver function and measuring liver enzyme levels. 

  • Additional blood tests: In addition to liver enzymes, other blood tests may be ordered to evaluate liver function and identify specific causes of liver disease. These tests may include checking for viral hepatitis markers (hepatitis A, B, and C), liver function markers (bilirubin, albumin, prothrombin time), autoimmune markers, and metabolic markers.

  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests provide visual information about the liver's structure and any abnormalities. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs about Elevated Liver Enzymes.


Can stress cause Elevated Liver Enzymes?

While stress itself may not directly cause ELE, it can exacerbate underlying liver conditions or contribute to unhealthy behaviours like excessive alcohol consumption, which can affect liver health.

Can Elevated Liver Enzymes be temporary?

Yes, ELE can be temporary and may return to normal once the underlying cause is addressed. However, it is important to monitor liver health and follow up with healthcare professionals to ensure proper management.

Are there any natural remedies to lower Elevated Liver Enzymes?

Some natural remedies, such as milk thistle, dandelion root, and turmeric, have been studied for their potential benefits on liver health. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any natural remedies, as they may interact with medications or have contraindications.

Can Elevated Liver Enzymes cause itching?

Itching can be associated with certain liver conditions that cause ELE, such as cholestasis. However, not all cases of ELE will result in itching.

How often should liver function tests be done?

The frequency of liver function tests depends on individual circumstances and underlying conditions. Your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate timing for monitoring liver enzyme levels based on your medical history and risk factors.

Can Elevated Liver Enzymes be a sign of cancer?

In some cases, ELE can be associated with liver cancer or metastatic cancer that has spread to the liver. However, it is important to note that ELE are not always indicative of cancer and can have various other causes.


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