Liver is one of the most important glands in the human body. It is responsible for maintaining multiple functions like digestion, storing energy, regulating the hormones, and releasing the chemicals and nutrients into the blood.
Liver diseases are known to affect one out of every 5 Indians. According to the World Health organization, liver disease is the 10th most common cause of deaths in India. Every year, around 10 lakh patients with liver cirrhosis are newly diagnosed in India.
Types of liver diseases
Liver diseases can be broadly classified as:
- Diseases caused by viruses: Hepatitis A, B, C & E
- Disease caused by other infections: Liver abscess, hepatic tuberculosis
- Diseases caused by alcohol abuse: Fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis
- Liver tumour or cancer: Hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
- Metabolic disease: Jaundice and Neonatal Jaundice
- Inherited liver diseases: Hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease
Signs and Symptoms
In most cases, the symptoms of liver diseases might not be noticeable initially. The following are a few obvious and often noticed symptoms of liver diseases:
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Yellow discoloration of skin and sclera
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy skin
- Dark color of urine and tarry stools
- Weight loss
Diagnosis of Liver diseases
If you notice any symptoms of liver disease, consult a doctor. The doctor would recommend you to undergo a series of tests to assess the liver function.
Liver function tests:
In liver function tests, a sample of blood is taken to analyze the indicators of liver functions, such as liver enzymes, proteins etc. The most common liver function tests are:
Alanine Transaminase (ALT) test: ALT is a liver enzyme that breaks down protein. ALT is ordered when symptoms such as abdominal pain, extreme fatigue, jaundice, dark urine or light-coloured stool are noticed. A healthcare provider collects a required amount of blood and sends it for laboratory analysis. A normal ALT test result ranges from 7 to 55 units per liter (U/L). High levels in ALT may be due to:
- Tumor in the liver
- Alcohol abuse
- Death of liver tissue
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) test: AST is also a liver enzyme and is also referred to as serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT). This test is recommended is you have symptoms suggestive of liver disease. High level of AST is indicative of liver dysfunction.
|Males||10 to 40 units/L|
|Females||9 to 32 units/L|
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) test: ALP is an enzyme which is present in the liver, bile duct and bone. The normal levels of ALP is 44 to 147 IU/L. High levels of ALP may indicate liver damage, a blocked bile duct, or bone disease such as Paget’s disease or rickets. Low levels of ALP may be due to protein deficiency, Wilson’s disease, malnutrition or hypophosphatemia.
Bilirubin test: Bilirubin is a yellow colour pigment produced by the liver due to the breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin test is performed to assess the amount of bilirubin present in the blood. High levels of bilirubin cause yellowing of the skin and sclera. The lab results give you the value of two forms of bilirubin- conjugated and unconjugated bilirubin as well as the total bilirubin. For adults, normal total bilirubin is 0.2 – 1.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) of blood. Normal results for conjugated bilirubin should be less than 0.3 mg/dl. Elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood indicate viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholic liver disease, anemia, a reaction to blood transfusion or Gilbert syndrome.
Albumin and total protein test: Albumin and globulin are the two proteins made by the liver. The normal range of serum albumin levels in the blood is 3.4 to 5.4 grams per deciliter. Low albumin levels can indicate the presence of liver disease, malnutrition, nephrotic syndrome, Crohn’s disease or celiac disease.
Other tests for diagnosis of liver diseases include:
Immunoglobin tests: Immunoglobulins are the antibodies produced in the body in response to an infection. These immunoglobins ward off the infection. The main types of immunoglobins are- IgA, IgM, IgG. High levels of these immunoglobins in blood indicate liver disease.
Clotting Factors: Liver plays a major role in the production of clotting factors. Reduction in the levels of clotting factors would indicate liver disease.
Lipid profile: Lipid metabolism is impaired in patients with liver diseases. A substantial increase in the levels of LDL, HDL and total cholesterol observed in patients with liver diseases.
HbsAG/ HbeAg test: This test detects the presence of Hepatitis B surface antigen(HbsAg) and Hepatitis E antigen which are the antigens produced by hepatitis B virus in the blood.
Fine needle Aspiration test(FNAC): In this test, a thin needle is inserted in the abdomen and a sample of the damaged liver tissue is obtained. This sample is then studied in the lab to check for conditions such as liver cancer used for study.
How to treat liver diseases?
Treatment of liver disease depends on your diagnosis. Early detection of liver diseases helps in decreasing the chances of liver failure. Some diseases can be managed by making lifestyle changes such as quitting alcohol and maintaining healthy weight. If the disease is not treated on time, it may result in chronic liver failure which may require liver transplantation.
- Chronic Hepatitis B can be treated with antiviral medications
- Benign tumors of the liver can be resolved by surgery or radiation therapy.
- Few drugs can act on targeted tissues and control liver cancer.
- Certain medications like corticosteroids can increase the survival of patients suffering from severe alcoholic hepatitis.
Lifestyle changes to prevent liver diseases
- Healthy diet – Obese people are at a higher risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. A diet having more of fiber and low saturated fats may help you attain a healthy weight. Avoid acidic and high-fat foods as it can increase the risk of gallstones.
- Limit alcoholic beverages – Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to liver cirrhosis.
- Get vaccinated – Make sure to receive hepatitis vaccination on time to prevent hepatitis A or B infection.
- Ensure safety – Follow safety measures while getting any tattoos or body piercings to avoid infections.
Why choose Apollo Diagnostics?
We have the expertise of 34 + years in healthcare. Our labs are equipped with EQUAS (External Quality Assurance System) and loaded with full-automated machines to ensure error free reports, with a quick turnaround time, and at an affordable price. For your convenience, we offer free home collection of samples.
For appointments, please call 4444 2424.
- Liver function tests. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/liver-function-tests/basics/why-its-done/prc-20012602. Accessed on 25-09.2017
- Liver Function Tests. https://medlineplus.gov/liverfunctiontests.html. Accessed on 25-09-2017
- What is Alkaline phosphatase test? .http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/alkaline_phosphatase_test#2. Accessed on 25-09-2017
- Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP). https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/alp/tab/test/. Accessed on 25-09-2017