A workhorse of an organ, the liver carries out multiple functions for your body: it helps break down food, develops proteins, cleans your blood, processes hormones and medication for your body, and stores energy and vitamins for the body. Given the rigour of tasks the liver performs, any change in liver functions manifests itself in the form of symptoms that cannot be ignored.
What are the signs of liver dysfunction?
Apart from extreme conditions, liver disease or dysfunction happens over a period of time. In the modern context, it’s generally a result of poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, family medical history, or medication.
A liver function test is often prescribed by physicians to:
- Screen for liver infections such as hepatitis
- Monitor side effects of medication known to affect the liver
- Monitor treatment for liver disease
- Assess the degree of liver scarring (cirrhosis)
A few symptoms to watch out for:
- Yellowish skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Dark-coloured urine or light stools
- Lack of appetite
- Swelling in your belly
- Nausea and vomiting
Liver Function Test (LFT) and preparing for it
It isn’t just one test; based on your history and symptoms, your physician may want to analyse the levels of various protein and enzymes in your blood. To that end, your physician will recommend a set of tests for analysis.
Among the multitude of liver screening tests, a few common ones include:
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
- Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
- Total protein (TP)
- Gamma – GGT (glut amyl transferase)
- Prothrombin time (PT)
The test itself would require your blood sample. You may have to fast ahead of the test for about 10-12 hours. Upon your physician’s advice, you may have to avoid medication that could influence test results.