If suspected signs and symptoms of abnormal liver functions are present in someone, it is important to follow up with a health care provider to determine if liver function tests are necessary. Without proper testing it is difficult to have definitive assurance whether your liver functions are normal when relying solely on symptoms. Liver function tests assist in determining if liver or other diseases are present, such as bone disease or malnutrition, while measuring the general health of the liver.
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Abnormal liver function test results indicate an elevation of the liver enzymes present in the bloodstream. This typically occurs because the liver is inflamed or cells are damaged, causing leakage of the enzymes or other chemicals from the liver. Abnormal liver function does not mean that a chronic liver condition is present, rather more often the inflammation is a temporary condition. However, it can also be a sign of a more serious medical emergency.
Signs and symptoms of abnormal liver function include the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes; tenderness or swelling of the upper right quadrant in the abdomen and fever; dark urine, light-coloured, bloody or black bowel movements; vomiting, diarrhoea; loss of appetite; unexplained weight differences; or fatigue and weakness. According to the Mayo Clinic, other signs and symptoms (which generally indicate acute liver failure) can include: "confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation and delirium, sleepiness or decreased responsiveness, muscle tremors and stiffness, uncontrollable or dysfunctional movement, such as difficulty with handwriting, mood changes or agitation," and severe bleeding, even with minor cuts.
Acute liver failure can occur in people unaware of an existing liver disease, perhaps prompted by extreme overuse of over-the-counter medication acetaminophen. Less likely causes are infections, poisoning other than from medication or other medical conditions impeding blood flow in the liver. Environmental toxins, hepatitis, cancer, vascular and metabolic disease are also causes for liver failure.
If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of abnormal liver functions, it is important to seek medical attention as it could be a sign of a serious medical condition, resulting in long-term complications or death. According to the American Liver Foundation, liver disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, and there are more than 100 variations of liver disease.
Due to obesity, as many as one in four adults over 18 years of age may be affected by a chronic liver disease called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Vaccines are available to protect people from hepatitis A and B, and many liver diseases are curable or treatable with early detection and intervention.
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