We often hear about liver disease, but most of us do not know precisely what they are. You would get a liver enzyme test, and they say that high liver enzymes are not a good sign. Thus, what are liver enzymes, and why should they stay at low levels in the blood?
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 a very complex structure. 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 the blood. That’s why finding high liver enzymes in the blood is not normal and should be investigated as potential liver damage.