Infectious mononucleosis, commonly abbreviated as just "mono," is a viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is one of the most common viral illnesses in humans. One of the effects of this infection is liver inflammation. This can be detected by a blood test called the liver panel, which checks for the elevation of liver enzymes.
The Epstein-Barr virus is part of the herpes family of viruses. According to the CDC, most people become infected during their childhood and adolescent years. By the time they reach adulthood, most people have been exposed to it, but only between 35 and 50 percent of people exposed to the virus develop symptoms of infectious mononucleosis.
After exposure, the incubation period of the virus is about a month. Your initial symptoms are nonspecific and include, according to the Mayo Clinic, lethargy, weakness and headache. Fever, sore throat and swelling of the neck lymph nodes, the more typical symptoms of mono, develop a day or two later. Other symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpits and the groin area, skin rash, loss of appetite and night sweats.
According to Lab Tests Online, your liver contains a number of enzymes and proteins inside its cells. When the liver is damaged or inflamed, these enzymes are released into the bloodstream. A blood test, called the liver or hepatic panel, can measure your level of these enzymes in the blood. Together with the other elements of the liver panel, discovering the readings of these enzymes can give you a sense of the general health of the liver and can help track the extent of liver damage and inflammation.
The most common tests for liver enzymes are aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). ALT is the best test to detect hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, and it usually yields higher readings than the AST in conditions like mononucleosis. Another liver protein that can be elevated in mono is bilirubin. This protein is important in the digestion of fats in your intestines. It is also the byproduct of red blood cell turnover. An elevation in the bilirubin level in people with mononucleosis causes jaundice, or a yellowish tinge of the skin.
The treatment for mono includes fever and pain control, adequate hydration and salt water gargles to alleviate the throat pain. Your liver enzymes eventually normalize as the liver inflammation decreases. The recovery time for mononucleosis can be prolonged, and you can feel fatigued and weak for weeks before feeling back to normal.