Acne treatment Acne treatment

Elevated Liver Enzymes & Itchy Skin

Elevated Liver Enzymes & Itchy Skin


Elevated liver enzymes generally indicate some abnormality with the organ. Your liver enzymes rise when damage to liver cells releases them into the bloodstream. You often experience itching skin if you have severe jaundice, another indicator of liver disease. Jaundice occurs when levels of bilirubin, produced from the breakdown of red blood cells, rise, either because of a blockage in your bile ducts or from liver damage. Symptoms of liver disease can occur if you have taken medications that can harm the liver, or in acute illnesses such as hepatitis A or chronic liver diseases like cirrhosis.

Types of Liver Enzymes

A routine liver function panel includes four tests: aspartate aminotransferase (AST), or SGOT; alanine aminotransferase (ALT), or SGPT; alkaline phosphatase (ALP), or AP; and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT). While ALT comes mainly from the liver, AST is also found in the heart, kidneys and muscles, so an elevation of AST is less diagnostic for liver disease than an elevation of ALT. Elevations of GGT and ALP often occur when damage affects the bile ducts connected to the liver. While GGT occurs mostly in the liver, ALP is also found in bones, intestines and kidneys. ALT readings normally range from 0 to 45 IU/L while AST falls between 0 and 40 IU/L. The normal ALP range is from 35 to 115 IU/L, and GGT from 3 to 60 IU/L.

Bilirubin and Itching

Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of old red blood cells. After around 120 days, your body removes old red blood cells from circulation and breaks them down. Bilirubin is processed by liver cells to produce bile, which is removed via the bile ducts for disposal through your urine or stool. Cell damage in your liver, or bile duct damage, can cause bilirubin to accumulate and leak into the skin, causing jaundice. Accumulated bilirubin in the skin also causes itching. Bile duct obstruction can cause severe itching.

Elevations of Labs and Diagnosis

The types and ratios of liver enzyme elevations can often indicate the type of disease process present in your system. In alcohol abuse, while elevations occur in both AST and ALT, the ratio of AST to ALT is greater, usually 2:1. In nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the AST to ALT ratio is usually less than 1:1. In acute liver injury caused by drugs or viruses, AST and ALT readings may rise to the 10,000s. In bile duct disease such as cholangitis, GGT and ALP may elevate to 10 times their normal concentrations. Bilirubin may rise above its normal level of 2.5 mg/dL.

Disorders Associated With Itching

Any disorder that causes liver enzyme elevations and high bilirubin levels can cause itching. As many as 20 percent of people with hepatitis C experience pruritus, or intense itching, according to the HCV Advocate. Itching increases in people with more advanced disease. Diseases that block the bile ducts, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, also often cause intense itching. Blockage of the bile ducts from gallstones can also cause your bilirubin levels to rise, resulting in pruritus.

Related Articles

I Have Itchy Skin on My Upper Back
Overview Itchy skin on the back is a common problem. Cracking and inflammation may occur, which is u...
Creams for Itchy Skin
Itchy skin can be a very frustrating and miserable experience. It can be caused by a number of thing...
Itchy Dead Skin
Overview Itchy skin, which is also called pruritus, is an uncomfortable skin issue. During outbreaks...
Itchy Welts on Skin
Overview An itchy, swollen rash can look terrible and make you feel miserable. The good news, says K...
How to Relieve Itchy Skin Problems
Overview If your skin is itchy and irritated, scratching may be the only thing that feels good. Scra...
What Is Darkened Itchy Skin?
Overview Darkened, itchy skin can stem from a number of causes, ranging from simple dry skin to cert...

Comment «Elevated Liver Enzymes & Itchy Skin»