Slightly Elevated Liver Enzymes

Important things you should know about slightly elevated liver enzymes


Liver enzymes are the proteins that help speed up chemical reactions in the liver, so when you have slightly elevated liver enzymes, it basically means there is a problem with your liver.  Doctors can determine whether or not you have slightly elevated liver enzymes by running a liver function test. 


Liver function tests are commonly done to screen for liver problems like hepatitis.  The test also helps to monitor the progression of a disease and determine if a treatment is working.  Doctors also use liver function tests to see just how severe a disease is. 


Doctors can tell one liver problem from another by checking to see which liver enzymes are elevated.  For example, some liver enzymes can indicate liver damage, while others indicate liver disease.  Slightly elevated liver enzymes of several kinds can indicate either or both liver damage and disease.  Four of the five most common liver function tests indicate a problem if there are slightly elevated liver enzymes in the test.  ALT helps the body metabolize protein, so elevated levels of this protein in the bloodstream indicate some type of liver damage.  A normal level for the ALT enzyme should be 5-40 units per liter of blood serum for both males and females.


AST helps the body metabolize one type of amino acid, and slightly elevated liver enzymes of this type can indicate either liver damage or disease, as can higher levels of ALP, another type of liver enzyme that is commonly test.  A normal level for the AST enzyme should be around 8-46 units per liter for males and 7-34 units per liter for females, while a normal level for the ALP enzyme should be around 13-29 units per liter for both males and females.

Bilirubin is another common liver enzyme that doctors also test, and elevated levels of this can also indicate liver damage or disease.  There are three different tests doctors use to check bilirubin levels.  The total bilirubin test measures the total amount of bilirubin in the blood, both direct and indirect.  A normal level for this enzyme should be about 1 milligram per 100 milliliters.  There are also separate tests to check direct and indirect bilirubin levels.  A normal level for direct bilirubin, or the water soluble form of the enzyme, is .4 milligrams per 100 milliliters.  Indirect bilirubin is simply determined by taking the total bilirubin level and subtracting the level of direct bilirubin from it.


For other liver enzyme tests, the important thing is that the levels don’t get too low.  The test for albumin and total protein show how well your body makes proteins to fight off infections.  This is why this protein should not be allowed to dip too low. 


There are so many different liver problems that slightly elevated liver enzymes can indicate, so it’s important not to jump to any conclusions.  You should discuss all test results with your doctor, who will have the expertise to figure out why your liver enzymes are elevated.  Possible problems range from hepatitis, to cirrhosis of the liver, to liver tumors, burns, pancreatitis, and even some types of heart attacks.