Elevated liver enzymes, also known as transaminases, refer to higher-than-normal levels of certain enzymes in the blood that are produced by the liver. These enzymes include alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Elevated liver enzymes can be a sign of liver damage or inflammation and may indicate an underlying health issue.
But what is the appropriate level of liver enzymes, and why should blood levels of them be kept low?
In this article, we’re covering the topic of elevated liver enzymes, what they mean, and what causes this problem. After reading, you will have a complete understanding of how these enzymes work and what signs and symptoms should prompt a visit to a healthcare professional.
Liver Enzymes: What Are They?
The liver is a vast organ composed of special cells called hepatocytes. These cells are excellent at receiving blood and performing hundreds of chemical reactions. Enzymes facilitate such chemical reactions.
Enzymes are proteins with very complex structures. They are arranged in a tridimensional shape that fits certain substances. Just like two pieces of a puzzle or a key in a keyhole, liver enzymes detect substances in the blood and attach them to them. Moreover, enzyme structures react with these substances and change them. Some enzymes break down the substance into two components. Others attach a chemical marker or tag that the kidneys recognize to catch and eliminate toxins.
Either way, liver enzymes are not a bad thing by themselves. They are essential to carry out all of the metabolic reactions in the liver. You might know them as AST and ALT or GOT and GPT. They are the same thing, and their full name is aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase. But they are far from being the only enzymes in the liver. You also have gamma-glutamyl transferase, alkaline phosphatase, and many others.
The importance of AST and ALT is that they are almost exclusively synthesized in the liver, unlike the others. Not having another source in the body, an alteration in these enzymes points out to the liver without a trace of doubt. In theory, these enzymes should not be anywhere else in the body, not even in the blood. That’s why finding high liver enzymes in the blood is not normal and should be investigated as potential liver damage.
Next, see what are considered high liver enzymes.