What Causes Elevated Liver Enzymes?


Your liver is truly a powerhouse of an organ. It helps your body fight disease and infection, removes toxins, creates energy from the foods you eat, and so much more. Behind the scenes, helping the liver perform all of these critical functions are enzymes. These chemicals enable and accelerate the chemical reactions that your liver carries out as it works to keep your body healthy. When these enzyme levels become elevated, however, it means that damage has occurred in your liver. Left unchecked, this can lead to serious — and even fatal — consequences.

Causes of High Liver Enzymes

Elevated liver enzymes is a sign that something has caused damage or inflammation to occur within your liver. The most common causes of high liver enzyme levels are:

While some of the causes of elevated liver enzymes can be chronic, severe liver conditions, that’s not always the case. Many times levels are only temporarily elevated and will return to healthy levels once the underlying cause is treated.

Symptoms of Elevated Liver Enzymes

High liver enzyme levels don’t immediately cause any signs or symptoms to develop, but the underlying condition often will. Common symptoms of liver disease include:

  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Abdominal swelling/pain
  • Fatigue
  • Low appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle soreness
  • Itchy skin

Risk Factors for Elevated Liver Enzymes

The risk factors for elevated liver enzymes are really risk factors for liver disease. While some liver conditions may be hereditary or environmental, many are brought on by lifestyle habits. The food and chemicals you put into your body all have an effect on your liver, and can lead to varying levels of liver damage and deterioration. Some of the most common risk factors include:

Diagnosis & Treatment for High Liver Enzymes

Elevated liver enzymes are detected through regular blood tests. These tests usually check for elevated levels of:

  • Alanine transaminase (ALT)
  • Aspartate transaminase (AST)
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
  • Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT)

If your healthcare provider determines that you have elevated liver enzymes, they will probably want to run other tests to get to the root of the underlying issue. Only once that is determined can an effective treatment plan be created.

High Liver Enzymes Treatment

Lowering high liver enzyme levels will depend on the underlying cause, but in most cases these levels can be brought back within healthy limits and are not indicative of a chronic, severe liver condition. Some possible treatment options include:

  • Healthy diet and exercise – this not only will help prevent or reduce overweight/obesity, it will boost your overall health, including that of your internal organs
  • Reducing or avoiding drug/alcohol intake – since these substances can be especially harmful to your liver, keeping consumption levels to healthy limits (or avoiding them altogether) will certainly improve your liver health
  • Adjusting medications – some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause inflammation of the liver. If your medication regimen is causing liver inflammation or damage, your doctor will work with you to create a safer treatment plan
  • Manage blood sugar – this is especially important for diabetics and those suffering from metabolic syndrome. Keeping blood sugar within healthy levels can prevent the underlying conditions from causing additional liver damage

If You Need Blood Screenings or Help Managing Elevated Liver Enzymes, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help

At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including flu vaccines. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.

If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.