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What is A Liver Function Test and its Importance?

The liver is a vital organ in the body, performing several functions to help the proper functioning of the body. These functions include removing poison, digesting food and storing vitality.

The liver function test is a blood test that checks for liver damage and identifies liver conditions such as cirrhosis and hepatitis.

Importance of liver function test

Liver function is usually part of a routine health check-up, but doctors also request it when symptoms of a liver ailment are present. Basically, specialists require this test to evaluate certain liver sicknesses and the effect of some medications.

Since the liver is involved in a wide range of functions necessary for maintaining general health, such as synthesising proteins, cleaning the blood and storing vitality, the slightest damage in the liver can be detrimental to the health and present different symptoms. These symptoms include slurred discourse and yellowing of the skin.

But when you experience any of these symptoms, the specialist may recommend a few tests to determine the level of enzymes and proteins in the blood. However, some of these tests check for the protein present in the blood when the liver is damaged or has a condition, while others check the liver’s health.

When do I need a liver function test?

You may need a liver function test if you develop a liver disease like hepatitis. Hepatitis is an illness that causes swelling in the liver and leads to severe health issues.

Common symptoms of liver conditions

These symptoms are usually present when the liver is damaged or diseased.

  • Reduced appetite
  • Dark urine or light-coloured stool
  • Yellowish eyes or skin (common symptoms of jaundice)
  • Feeling weak or exhausted

The result of a liver function test can help your doctor know the severity of a disease or determine how well your treatment is working. That’s why doctor orders a liver function test if you are at risk of liver infection or breakdown.

These risks apply if you are:

  • Extremely obese with diabetes or high blood pressure
  • On medications that can damage the liver
  • An alcoholic
  • Have a family history of liver disease

Types of test

Different types of liver function tests are available with different names. But some common ones include:

  • Alanine transaminase (ALT) test

The ALT test helps to separate protein found mainly in the liver. Hence, abnormally high levels of alanine transaminase in the blood indicate lover damage.

  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) test

ALP is found in the bone, bile channels and liver. Therefore, abnormally high alanine transaminase levels in the liver may indicate a liver condition or damage, bone disease or a blocked bile pipe.

  • Albumin and aggregate protein test

The liver mainly synthesises two proteins, globulin and egg whites. Low levels of these proteins may mean liver damage or illness.

  • Aspartate transaminase (AST) test

AST is another liver protein. Hence high levels of AST may indicate an ailment or damage to the liver.

  • Bilirubin test

Bilirubin is a product from the separation of red platelets. Usually, the liver removes bilirubin from the body. Therefore, abnormal levels of bilirubin in the blood may cause jaundice.

  • Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) test

Increased levels of GGT may indicate issues in the bile channel or liver

  • L-lactate dehydrogenase (LD) test

LD is an enzyme that becomes high in the blood when the liver is diseased. However, different conditions also increase the level of LD in the blood.

  • Prothrombin time (PT) test

This test checks how long it takes your blood to clump. You may have a liver condition if your blood takes a long time to clump. Some blood-thinning medications such as warfarin affect this test.

Preparing for liver function test

A liver function test requires drawing a venous blood sample. The healthcare professional will use a small needle to draw blood from a vein in your arm close to your elbow. You may feel a slight stinging or squeeze when the needle goes in, and after the blood sample collection, the area may feel sore or have a lesion.

In most cases, you will need several liver function tests to help the specialist monitor changes in the tested parameters over a few weeks or days. If you get your test done at a centre with a lab onsite, you can get the result within a few hours, but the test may take some days if the lab is at a different location.

What do the test results mean?

Different labs have varying result ranges, and the implication of your test result may also depend on whether you are female or male. If your result shows abnormal levels of the tested parameters, you will likely need more tests

Only a liver function test cannot give enough information for a precise diagnosis. Your doctor will explain the implications of your test result and recommend further testing if necessary.

The liver function test comprises of different tests to check your liver health which affect your general health. You can call on 020 7183 2792 to book a private GP appointment for liver function test in London.

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