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10 Causes of Elevated Liver Enzymes

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Elevated liver enzymes are a marker of inflammation or damage to liver cells.  Inflamed or injured liver cells cause the liver enzymes alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) to leak into the bloodstream.  Mild elevations of ALT and AST are commonly discovered in individuals with no symptoms during routine blood work.  In general, normal ranges for ALT are 7 to 56-units per liter, while normal ranges for AST are 10 to 40-units per liter.  Mild elevations of both liver enzymes are 2 to 3-times higher than normal range.  

Ten causes of elevated liver enzymes include…

1. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the diagnosis used to describe an abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver of individuals who drink little or no alcohol.  The disease is common and most individuals with the diagnosis show no signs or symptoms and have no complications.  It is the most common cause of elevated liver enzymes.  Risk factors for the development of NAFLD include obesity and type 2 diabetes.  

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease has two forms: hepatic steatosis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.  It is estimated that 30-percent of adults in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  Physicians expect more than 5 to 10-percent of the liver’s weight to be fat at the time of diagnosis of the disease.  No standard treatment exists for NAFLD.  The emphasis is on minimizing the contribution of risk factors commonly associated with NAFLD.  Losing weight if obese and tight control of type 2 diabetes is highly recommended to decrease the odds of developing NAFLD.

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