What does the liver do?

    Your liver is a large organ inside your body. It is also one of the most important. The liver performs many functions, including changing food into energy and cleaning alcohol and other toxins from the blood. Your liver also makes bile, a yellowish-green liquid that helps with digestion.


    What is a liver function test?

    A liver function test (LFT) is used to detect, evaluate and monitor liver disease or damage. There are several tests (sometimes called a liver panel) that may be run at the same time on one blood sample. These include tests that measure liver inflammation.

    The test is simple and practically painless. A small amount of blood is drawn, usually from a vein inside the elbow.

    When are liver tests ordered?

    Many patients with early or mild to moderate liver disease have few if any symptoms. In some cases, liver disease is first detected through routine blood testing. Specific liver tests may be ordered when a person has been or may have been exposed to a hepatitis virus; has a family history of liver disease; has excessive alcohol intake; or is taking a drug that can cause liver damage.

    Liver tests may also be ordered when symptoms suspicious of a liver condition are noticed. These include: jaundice (yellow-colored skin and eyes), dark urine, or light-colored bowel movements; nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea; loss of appetite; vomiting of blood; bloody or black bowel movements; swelling or pain in the belly; unusual weight change; or fatigue or loss of stamina.

    What will happen if my liver function test results are abnormal?

    It  is not unusual for the results of a liver function test to come out abnormal. If this happens in your case, your doctor will probably order another test. Often, the second test shows a normal result and there is no need for further testing. If your doctor is still concerned, he or she may ask for an imaging test such as an ultrasound to find out more about the condition of your liver.

    What can I do to prevent the development of fatty liver disease, a common cause of liver inflammation?

    There are important things you can do to help prevent fatty liver disease. They include: 

          Weight loss and exercise. If you are overweight or obese, a diet and exercise program can help prevent the accumulation of fat in your liver. Your doctor can give you information about a healthy weight-loss diet and starting an exercise program

          Blood sugar control. A healthy diet and exercise can help prevent diabetes from developing. If you have diabetes, it is very important to manage your blood sugar level with diet, medications or insulin. Some diabetes medications can actually help prevent the accumulation of fat in your liver

          Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can cause liver damage. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. A drink is a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 11/2 ounce shot of liquor

    This document is intended to provide health related information so that you may be better informed. It is not a substitute for your care team’s medical advice and should not be relied upon for treatment for specific medical conditions.


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