Did you know roughly one in 10 adults in America has some form of liver disease? Because liver disease can be very serious, it’s important to get prompt care. But how do you know if you have liver disease? You can easily arrange for a liver panel test when you contact physicians at Text2MD. Read on to learn more about liver disease, testing, and treatment.
What Does a Liver Panel Indicate?
A liver panel is the number one diagnostic tool physicians use to identify liver disease. Because some forms of liver disease may present without symptoms, regular liver panels can be an important tool for your preventative health. But what does this panel indicate?
A panel will identify different enzymes, proteins, and other substances that are created by the liver that affect the production of bile and other important liver functions. This test will tell you if you have certain types of liver disease, and can also be used to monitor for liver damage in high-risk patients.
High Levels and Low Levels
A liver function panel mostly assesses how well the liver is functioning. Based on levels of albumin, bilirubin, and other enzymes, a physician can use high or low liver levels to identify if there is liver disease.
When there are elevated enzymes in the liver, this usually indicates that there is liver inflammation or damage in the liver, such as inflammation caused by viral infections. Conversely, low enzymes can indicate low function in the liver. For example, very low liver enzymes can indicate late stages of liver disease, including cancer and cirrhosis.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
The most common symptom associated with liver disease is jaundice, which is when the skin and eyes begin to turn yellow. Jaundice generally occurs when the liver can’t clear bilirubin from the body, which causes the substance to build up in the blood.
In addition to jaundice, other signs of liver disease can include easy bruising, changes in the color of urine or stool, nausea, vomiting, edema in the arms and legs, and fatigue. Serious liver disease is often also accompanied by abdominal pain, particularly on the right side. This pain is usually severe and may show up suddenly. Additionally, some liver diseases may also cause joint pain.
Common Liver Diseases
Several diseases can affect your liver. From viral infections to autoimmune diseases to cancer, some of the most common liver diseases include:
Hepatitis viruses include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. These are viral infections that can affect the blood and cause serious inflammation in the liver that can create long-term liver damage and sometimes even death.
There are vaccines for each hepatitis virus to protect people from catching and transmitting the virus through blood or intercourse. Sometimes, the symptoms of hepatitis viruses are mild or unnoticeable until they get to the later stages.
Cirrhosis of the liver is a disorder that causes liver tissue to be replaced by scar tissue, which will prevent your liver from functioning correctly and can even cause liver failure. This is a very serious disease that has a low survival rate. This is why the only way to treat cirrhosis is with a liver transplant within two years of diagnosis if the disease is advanced.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease can include alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Essentially, this disease is a result of poor lifestyle habits that compromise the overall function of the liver. Consuming too much alcohol or consuming too much fat can create too many toxins in the liver that the body cannot flush out.
Liver cancer is also common. Liver cancer occurs when there are multiple abnormal cells in the liver that may cause tumors. Often, those who have liver cancer may experience pain or symptoms of bile reduction, which can change the color of the urine or stool.
Hemochromatosis Is a genetic disorder that causes your body to store too much iron, which can harm the heart, pancreas, and liver. Storing too much iron in the body can be harmful and may cause arrhythmia, heart failure, cirrhosis, liver failure, arthritis, and much more. Because this is a genetic disease, only lifestyle factors may reverse organ damage or slow the progression of the disease.
Wilson disease is another genetic disorder that causes copper to build up in the body, which can lead to toxicity in the liver, brain, and eyes. Sustained high copper levels in the body can cause organ failure and death without treatment.
Primary Biliary Cholangitis
Primary biliary cholangitis is a liver disease that primarily affects the bile function of the liver. This chronic liver disease causes damage to the bile ducts and the liver, which can prevent the liver from secreting bile to help with digestion and can also cause cirrhosis if untreated.
What Should You Expect From This Test?
A liver panel is a simple blood test that is often included in your regular blood screenings. If your physician suspects that you have liver disease, an advanced panel may be ordered to assess all levels of proteins and enzymes in your liver. Usually, a blood draw for this test will take less than 10 minutes and you will get your results within 24 to 48 hours.
For a liver function panel test, you will need to fast before your blood draw for at least eight to 10 hours. This will ensure that the results of your test are as accurate as possible, particularly if you have other symptoms of liver disease. The day before your blood panel, you may want to avoid refined carbohydrates, including sugar, white bread, and pasta. You should also be sure to drink plenty of water before your test.
You will need to tell your physician about all medications you are taking, since some medications can affect the results of a liver blood panel. For some, a physician may recommend temporarily stopping medications for three to five days before a blood test for more accurate results.
What Can Be Done About Poor Liver Panel Results?
Depending on your results, there are some things you can do to improve the functioning of your liver. If your diagnosis is not hereditary, then there are certain treatment steps your physician will recommend to slow liver damage or reverse your condition. For example, your physician may recommend lifestyle changes, medication, or even surgery.
When it comes to your liver, lifestyle changes are often the easiest and most direct route to reversing organ damage or slowing the progression of diseases such as cirrhosis. For example, if your doctor has diagnosed you with fatty liver disease, dietary changes to reduce fat intake and alcohol consumption may be effective in slowing the progression of the disease.
Furthermore, a well-balanced diet can aid in your digestive health, which can take the stress off your liver. A well-balanced diet will include high fiber, low-calorie meals, with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you are diagnosed with liver disease, you should avoid raw or undercooked shellfish or other undercooked meat.
For certain liver diseases, including hepatitis and autoimmune diseases, your physician may recommend certain medications. These medications will alter the enzyme production or function of your liver to improve your symptoms or slow the progression of your liver disease.
If your physician is putting you on medication for your liver health, you will likely need to take this medication long-term, or until other treatment options are available. Prompt treatment with medications can reverse jaundice and improve other symptoms of liver disease, including joint pain and nausea.
Some liver diseases, including liver cancer, may only be resolved with surgery. Surgery on the liver can remove tumors or can transplant the entire liver to prolong your life. Surgery is typically a final option when medication and lifestyle changes have failed.
Be Proactive About Your Liver Health
Your liver is an essential component of your overall health. Being diagnosed with any form of liver disease is serious since the liver is so crucial to your digestive health. If your physician suspects you have liver disease based on your symptoms, including joint pain and jaundice, a liver function panel can be the main diagnostic tool used to identify your liver disease and ideal treatment plan. Contact Text2MD to learn more about preventative health tests you can have today.