The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body. It serves many important roles, from aiding the digestion of food and liquids to filtering harmful toxins from the blood. It also creates important proteins and plays a part in hundreds of functions throughout the body.
With all of this being the case, it's important the liver remains healthy. It's also important to find out as soon as possible when it isn't working as it should. This can be done through a hepatic function panel and other lab tests relating to liver health.
There are several different things that can cause issues with the liver. This article will take a look at possible signs and symptoms of liver damage, who's at risk, and what you can do to assess liver damage.
What Is Liver Health Decline?
Liver health decline refers to a negative change in the liver's ability to function correctly. There can be many reasons a person's liver can become damaged or go into decline.
Hepatitis A, B, and C are inflammatory conditions of the liver. A person can contract these diseases in a number of different ways, from viral infections to adverse reactions to drugs or alcohol. Abuse of alcohol can also lead to liver diseases such as cirrhosis.
Hemochromatosis is another common liver disease. People suffering from this condition store too much iron in their bodies, which can cause damage to several organs, including the liver. It is thought to be hereditary.
Other genetic liver diseases include Wilson's disease and Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Cancer of the liver is another common liver disease.
Risk Factors for Liver Health Decline
Genetics can play a part in liver health decline. If a direct relative has suffered from any of the above genetic liver diseases, you may be at greater risk of contracting them.
Other factors that can put you at higher risk of liver health decline include lifestyle-related elements such as obesity, alcohol abuse, intravenous drug use, unprotected sex, Type 2 diabetes, and exposure to certain toxins.
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Health Decline
If you're worried you may be at risk of suffering from liver health decline, there are a number of signs and symptoms to observe. Jaundice is one of the most prominent signs of liver damage. This is when the skin takes on a yellowish hue; the whites of your eyes may also appear yellow.
Darkened urine can also be a sign your liver is not functioning as it should. If your urine is consistently appearing amber or brown in color, this is cause for concern. This occurs due to the liver's inability to break down a chemical compound known as bilirubin.
Other common symptoms include abdominal swelling, pale-colored stools, nausea, fatigue, easily bruising skin, and swollen legs or ankles. If you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms for a prolonged period, you may want to investigate further by conducting a liver health test.
How Is Liver Health Decline Diagnosed?
There are a number of tests that can be carried out to determine how well your liver is functioning. A hepatic function panel is a comprehensive range of tests to assess the overall health of the liver. Because a hepatic (liver) panel is comprised of many different measurements, there is no one defined list of the tests it entails.
However, the measurements most often taken in the course of a liver function panel are:
- Aspartate aminotransferase: AST is an enzyme that helps to process proteins
- Alanine aminotransferase: ALT is another enzyme found in the liver that assists in the function of the metabolism
- Alkaline phosphatase: ALP is an enzyme found in the liver, as well as bones, and other tissues in the body
- Bilirubin: bilirubin is a yellow-colored waste product created during the breakdown of red blood cells
- Albumin: a protein produced by the liver that prevents fluids from leaking out of the bloodstream
Then there are other tests that can also be conducted to detect indicators of poor liver health. Levels of the enzyme gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) may be tested, as high levels can be a sign of bile duct damage.
Another measurement that is often taken is levels of lactate dehydrogenase (LD). Elevated levels of this enzyme may indicate liver damage or a range of other disorders.
Prothrombin time (PT) is often also checked. PT is the time it takes your blood to clot. A high PT can be a sign of liver damage.
Other more general tests that can also pick up signs of liver damage include a C-reactive protein test, a complete blood count with differential and platelets blood test, and a comprehensive metabolic panel. Iron and total iron-binding capacity may also be checked.
As well as diagnosing liver decline, many of these tests are conducted to monitor liver diseases after they are diagnosed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Liver Health Decline and Lab Testing
Below are some common questions regarding liver health decline and methods for testing liver function.
How Common Is Liver Health Decline?
Liver damage and decline are on the rise. They are more common in white and Native American people and more common in men than in women.
How Are Tests Conducted?
Blood tests assess liver function. A phlebotomist will take your blood and send your sample to a lab to be assessed.
How Fast Will I Get My Results?
In the majority of cases, you will receive your results online between 24 and 48 hours after your test.
Liver Function Panel and Liver Health Lab Tests
If you're concerned about the health of your liver, consider taking a liver function panel or other liver health lab tests today. With Ulta Lab tests, you'll receive quick and confidential results without the need for health insurance or a doctor's referral.
Tests are affordable and you get a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Take control of your health today with Ulta Lab Tests.