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Saturday, July 20, 2024

When Should You Get Liver Function Tests Done? Signs and Symptoms that Warrant Testing

Liver function test is a blood test that measures various substances produced by your liver, including proteins, bilirubin, and enzymes. This test aids in screening for indications of liver damage and diseases.

The liver is situated just under the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen. The organ plays a key role in waste removal, digestion, and the production of clotting factors necessary for maintaining blood flow. Damage to the liver can lead to various symptoms and health issues. Liver function test (LFT) provides valuable insights into the liver’s health and functionality, aiding in the detection of any sign of damage or liver disease. Understanding the significance of LFT, the appropriate timing for undergoing the test, and LFT test price is important for maintaining overall health. 

What is the Liver Function Test?

Liver function test, also known as liver panel, utilises a blood sample to measure various substances produced by the liver. The primary components measured in liver function tests include:

  • Albumin: It is a protein produced in the liver.
  • Total protein: This test assesses the overall protein levels in the blood, encompassing globulins and albumin, which are primarily synthesised in the liver.
  • ALT, ALP, AST and GGT: ALT (alanine transaminase), AST (aspartate aminotransferase), ALP (alkaline phosphatase) and GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase) are enzymes, primarily synthesised in the liver, that accelerate specific chemical reactions in the body.
  • Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH): It is an enzyme present in various body tissues, with significant concentrations found in the liver.
  • Bilirubin: It is a waste product generated during the breakdown of old red blood cells, primarily eliminated by the liver.
  • Prothrombin time (PT): This measures the time taken for blood to clot, with prothrombin, a protein crucial for blood clotting, produced in the liver.

These tests provide insights into liver functionality and can indicate potential liver damage caused by disease or injury. An LFT test price can vary depending on your choice of diagnostic lab. At Apollo 24|7, the LFT test price is just Rs 800. 

What Does a Liver Function Test Indicate?

Various ratios and values of different substances in liver function tests can provide valuable information to your healthcare provider, such as:

  • Presence of liver inflammation (hepatitis)
  • Identification of issues in the liver or bile ducts
  • Differentiation between nonalcoholic (metabolic) or alcohol-related inflammation
  • Assessment of liver function impairment and its severity
  • Determination of the impact of medications on liver function
  • Evaluation of bile flow impairment and its extent

It’s important to note that liver function tests alone typically cannot diagnose specific diseases. Therefore, if your results indicate abnormalities, further tests are usually necessary to pinpoint the exact cause.

When Should You Get Liver Function Test Done?

Your healthcare provider often includes liver function tests in your routine checkup to screen for liver and other diseases. Liver function test may also be necessary if you experience symptoms of liver disease or damage. Early symptoms can include:

  • Loss of weight and appetite, accompanied by muscle wasting
  • General feelings of unwellness and persistent fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Spider-like blood capillaries on the skin above waist level (spider angiomas)
  • Tenderness or pain in the liver area
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Blotchy red palms

As liver function deteriorates, more symptoms may emerge such as:

  • Intensely itchy skin
  • White nails
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Clubbed fingers (widening/thickening of finger ends)
  • Swelling of ankles, legs, and feet (oedema)
  • Hair loss
  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Pale or very dark/black tarry stools
  • Dark urine
  • Frequent nosebleeds and bleeding gums
  • Vomiting blood
  • Easy bruising and difficulty in stopping small bleeds
  • Frequent muscle cramps
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods in women, enlarged breasts and shrunken testes in men 
  • Impotence and loss of sexual desire
  • Right shoulder pain
  • Dizziness, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue (anaemia)
  • Fever with high temperature and shivers
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Forgetfulness, confusion, memory loss, and drowsiness
  • Trembling hands and difficulty writing
  • Subtle changes in personality
  • Staggering gait and a tendency to fall
  • Increased sensitivity to alcohol
  • Increased sensitivity to drugs, both recreational and medical

Even in the absence of symptoms, testing is deemed if you are at a high risk of liver damage due to factors such as:

  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Family history of liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Use of certain medications known to cause liver damage
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis or exposure to hepatitis (liver swelling due to infection or injury)

If you already have liver disease, then your doctor may monitor its progression or the effectiveness of treatment through liver tests. Additionally, liver tests may be conducted to monitor the side effects of specific medications known to affect the liver.

By and large, liver function tests are a straightforward method for you and your healthcare provider to assess the health of your liver. Whether it’s to screen for liver disease or evaluate the effects of medication or treatment, only a small blood sample is needed to provide significant insights.

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