Guide To The Causes Of High Liver Enzymes

November 30, 2023

Elevated liver enzymes may be discovered through routine blood tests. They can be an indication that the liver is inflamed or damaged. In most cases, elevations in liver enzymes are mild and temporary. Alanine transaminase, alkaline phosphatase, and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase are some of the most commonly elevated enzymes. Liver enzymes are measured through blood tests. If an elevation is noted, patients may need additional blood tests. They may also need to attend frequent follow-up appointments. Doctors may need to perform imaging studies and other tests to investigate the patient's liver health more closely.

Treatment for elevated liver enzymes varies depending on the cause. For instance, some pain medications may cause it, so patients should stop taking them where possible. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease treatment is vital when it is the cause. Some individuals may need heart surgery for heart failure. Another option for elevated liver enzyme treatment may be adjusting the patient's medication. Weight loss for liver health can help as well. However, as stated, patients must know the cause before they can receive the best treatment for elevated liver enzymes.

Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when an individual's heart cannot pump the amount of blood that their body needs. It is a chronic condition that gets worse over time, and patients require lifelong treatment. This condition can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling of the feet and legs. Since it puts more stress on the liver, it can trigger elevated liver enzymes. Patients may have rapid weight gain from fluid retention, and they may notice a persistent cough. Men are at an increased risk of heart failure. Patients with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, or coronary artery disease have a high risk of developing the condition as well.

Doctors may order stress tests, chest x-rays, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and CT or MRI scans to diagnose heart failure. Blood tests may be used to check the patient's levels of NT-proBNP. Treatment for heart failure includes beta-blockers, diuretics, angiotensin II receptor blockers, and other medicines. Some individuals may need to have coronary bypass surgery or heart valve repair or replacement. Ventricular assist devices or implantable cardioverter-defibrillators may be considered. Patients with severe heart failure may need a heart transplant.

Over-The-Counter Pain Medication

Many over-the-counter pain medications contain acetaminophen. This medicine can cause high liver enzymes and liver damage. Patients who take acetaminophen for long periods are at an increased risk of developing these complications. Individuals who use more than the recommended dose are at risk as well. To reduce the risk of experiencing liver damage and changes in liver enzymes, doctors recommend that patients take a maximum of three thousand milligrams of acetaminophen per day. Each dose should be no more than one thousand milligrams.

Patients should take the maximum daily dose for no more than three to five days. Doctors recommend that patients use the smallest dose that effectively relieves their pain. Although individuals with liver damage can take acetaminophen, they should take no more than two thousand milligrams per day. In addition to acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen may cause liver enzyme elevations and liver damage. Patients should consult a physician about the safest pain relievers for their health needs, especially if they have underlying health conditions.


Statins are prescription medicines that reduce cholesterol. This type of medication is also routinely prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in high-risk patients. Research shows that statins can reduce the risk of a second heart attack or stroke by approximately forty percent in patients who have already had one. Atorvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, and rosuvastatin are some of the most frequently prescribed statins. During treatment with statins, patients could notice headaches, sleeping difficulties, bloating, abdominal pain, dizziness, and muscle weakness.

Some patients have experienced an increase in liver enzymes while taking statins. This is considered a rare side effect. Taking a low to moderate dose reduces the likelihood of experiencing this effect. Patients will have their liver function carefully monitored during treatment with statins. Individuals with mildly elevated liver enzymes can continue to take the statin they have been prescribed. Patients with moderate to severe elevations may need to change to a different medicine.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when there is an abnormal accumulation of fat cells in the liver. This condition does not develop due to alcohol consumption. Instead, it is associated with obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and insulin resistance. Patients with type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, or high cholesterol have an elevated risk of developing this disease. Usually, this condition does not produce visible symptoms, and most patients are not aware that they have it. The condition may be discovered when routine blood tests are performed for another reason. One of the signs that may be revealed is elevated liver enzymes.

If doctors suspect nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, they may need to do an abdominal ultrasound, CT scans, or a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Weight loss is the primary treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Patients are advised to lose ten percent of their body weight to manage risk factors for the condition. Some individuals notice an improvement in their condition after losing five percent of their body weight. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease may lead to cirrhosis of the liver. If this occurs, patients might need a liver transplant.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that impairs liver function. Most patients become infected with hepatitis A by ingesting contaminated food or water or through contact with an infected person. Usually, patients notice symptoms of hepatitis A after they have had the infection for several weeks. They may experience severe itching, yellowing of the skin or eyes, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain on the upper right side. The urine could be very dark, and stools may be clay-colored. They will usually have elevated liver enzymes as well. Blood tests are used to diagnose this condition.

There is no specific treatment, though most patients make a full recovery within a few weeks. During recovery, it is essential to avoid alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol could lead to more severe liver damage. Doctors recommend that patients rest as much as possible during their recovery. A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A. Patients may want to obtain this vaccination if they are traveling to an area where the condition is common.

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