During a routine blood test, your doctor may discover that you have elevated liver enzymes. This means that your liver is inflamed and secreting larger quantities of chemicals than it normally does. Most of the time, this happens as a result of a temporary condition or in response to a medication that you are taking, but if it occurs with a headache, fever or other symptoms, it may indicate a serious health condition.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and can have a variety of causes. Usually it is caused by a hepatitis virus. The three most common types of hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A, B and C. Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated food and hepatitis B and C are caused by exposure to the body fluids of someone who is already infected. In the beginning stages of hepatitis, you might experience fever, general flu-like illness, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea. You might also become jaundiced, which means that your eyes and skin may take on a yellow tinge, and your urine may become dark while your stools become light. Blood tests will show elevated liver enzymes.
You can prevent hepatitis by following safe food-handling procedures and washing your hands after using the bathroom. Also, do not share needles or engage in unsafe sexual practices. Ask your doctor about vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B; these are routinely given to children as part of their childhood vaccination schedule, but if you have not had them, your doctor may recommend them.
If your gallbladder is inflamed, it may cause your liver to secrete more enzymes. Gallbladder inflammation, also called cholecystitis, is usually caused by gallstones, or hard pieces of cholesterol that get stuck in the gallbladder. Symptoms include fever, abdominal discomfort or pain, nausea, vomiting and jaundice. Sometimes the symptoms will clear up on their own, but many times patients require surgery to remove the gallbladder. While there is no sure way to prevent gallbladder inflammation, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding rapid weight loss may make a gallbladder attack less likely.
HELLP syndrome is a collection of symptoms that can affect pregnant women. The acronym stands for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzyme levels and a Low Platelet count. Symptoms include severe headaches, elevated liver enzymes, fatigue, swelling and nausea and vomiting. HELPP syndrome is a serious condition that can only be cured by delivering your baby. If you are not far enough along in your pregnancy to safely deliver your baby, you might take steroids to help the baby's lungs mature more quickly or you may need blood transfusions.
Cirrhosis is the buildup of scar tissue on your liver, and can cause elevated liver enzymes. It can be caused by alcohol abuse, hepatitis, liver disease, one of several autoimmune diseases, parasites or other conditions. In the beginning stages of cirrhosis, you may experience no symptoms, but as it progresses, you may experience bleeding, bruising, nausea, swelling and weight loss. Cirrhosis can increase your risk of liver cancer and make you susceptible to other types of infection. If your cirrhosis is caused by alcoholism, you may need help to stop drinking. Your doctor can give you medication to treat the underlying cause of cirrhosis, or you may need a liver transplant if scarring is extensive.