What is involved in screening for elevated liver enzymes?

Because the liver is essential to digesting food, processing medication, and eliminating the body of toxins, reduced liver function can have serious health consequences. Elevated levels of the liver enzymes alanine aminotranferease (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) can be an early indicator of liver function decline, because when the liver is damaged, these enzymes spill into circulating blood.

Your doctor may also use a liver enzyme screening to help measure how a treatment is working, or if statin medications are damaging your liver, which they sometimes do.

Just like any disease, early detection of problems enable you and your doctor to take action to prevent the disease from getting worse. Liver damage, in its earliest stages, does not have any symptoms, so if you have any of the risk factors listed below, you should have a liver enzyme screening.

People at risk for liver damage include the following:

  • People taking statin medications
  • Those with diabetes, or who are obese
  • People who consume large amounts of alcohol
  • Those at risk for hepatitis