Liver Function Private Blood Testing
A liver function test, which may also be referred to as a liver blood test, looks for certain metabolites in the blood to determine whether or not the liver in functioning properly. The most common situations in which this form of testing would be required is if you suspect you may have liver damage or to monitor a disease you have previously been diagnosed with. An excess of alcohol may cause catastrophic damage to the liver, so it is vital that you take steps to keep this highly important organ in top shape.
What does the liver do?
The liver is essentially the body’s rubbish disposal organ, breaking down all of the substances we no longer require ready for them to leave the body in our urine or faeces. In addition to this, the liver also produces substances of its own that are crucial for the body’s function. Bile that aids digestion and blood clotting proteins are prime examples of the liver’s produce. The liver also acts as a major store for carbohydrate energy sources, storing glycogen and also breaking this down as well as fat if the body requires it for energy. Without a properly functioning liver, we as humans cannot survive. However, if your liver becomes damaged, either due to diseases such as hepatitis or lifestyle choices, you may not notice it until it is too late. We can lose up to 80% of the liver’s function without too many negative consequences, but past this point it is a slippery decent that is often too late to change. This is why keeping an eye on your liver using a private blood test is not only a sensible thing to do, but may also be potentially lifesaving.
What does the liver function test look for?
To perform all the processes the liver does perform, many different proteins must be involved. In liver disease or damage, these may be present in the blood when normally they wouldn’t be. Enzymes are proteins that aid chemical reactions by speeding them up so they are efficient. Liver enzymes should only be found within the liver tissue itself, so when they are present in the bloodstream this can indicate some serious problems.
There are proteins produced by the liver that although they are supposed to be in the blood, either having too much or too little of them many indicate a problem is present. Most commonly, antibodies which help battle infection and blood proteins albumin and prothrombin are examined to see if the appropriate levels are present. Abnormal levels many be a result of not only liver disease, but potentially other diseases such as kidney problems, bleeding disorders, blood cancers, negative reactions to certain medications or even malnutrition.
As well as all the other proteins the liver produces, when red blood cells have reached the end of their life they are broken down by the liver and a substance called bilirubin is produced as a result. Bilirubin is a yellow colour and the cause of jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and eyes amongst other things. The liver normally removes this from the blood before any effects can be seen, but if you start to develop any abnormal colourations of the skin or eyes it is advisable to have a liver function test performed to see if bilirubin levels are elevated. There are many different causes of high bilirubin levels, such as a blocked bile duct, hepatitis or liver disease also known as cirrhosis.
Following a liver test - Results and further testing
Because of the complexity of the liver as an organ, and the many function it carries out, just because an abnormality appears on the blood test does not mean the doctor will definitely be able to diagnose you straight away. Other tests may be required to identify a specific cause of the problem, but the results from the liver function test will be used to guide this testing and any further treatment or lifestyle changes that may be required. It also may be the case that the results of your test are considered to be ‘borderline’. This means that although the levels are not dangerously high, they are slightly elevated from what is considered to be the ideal level. Quite often, no further intervention is required but monitoring as advised to ensure there is no underlying problem.
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