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Elevated Liver Enzymes and Antibiotics

author image Destiny Simmons
Destiny Simmons has worked as a professional health writer since 2005. She specializes in health and nutrition articles. Her work has appeared in various health Web sites. Destiny holds a Bachelors of Science in nursing from Boston University and a Master of Public Health Nutrition from Tufts University.
Elevated Liver Enzymes and Antibiotics
An antibiotic overdose can damage liver cells. Photo Credit Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

Antibiotics are powerful drugs used to treat bacterial infections such as sore throat, tuberculosis and pneumonia. Antibiotics kill bacteria or prevent them from reproducing. The most common antibiotics classes prescribed are penicillins, cephalosporins, aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, quinolones, macrolides and sulfonamides. Large doses of antibiotics can injure your liver and cause elevated liver enzymes. The liver enzymes most commonly elevated are alanine transaminase, or ALT, and aspartate transaminase, or AST.

Antibiotics and Elevated Enzymes

Elevated liver enzymes indicate inflammation or damage to cells in the liver. When your liver cells get injured due to an antibiotic overdose, they release higher than normal amounts of liver enzymes into the bloodstream. Your doctor may discover the elevated liver enzymes during routine blood testing. He will determine the specific cause by reviewing your medications, signs and symptoms and other tests and procedures.

Specific Antibiotics

Certain antibiotics are more likely to cause liver inflammation and damage. These antibiotics include isoniazid, tetracylines, sulfonamides, sulfamethoxazole, fluconazole, trimethoprim and nitrofurantoin, according to PubMedHealth. If you have existing liver problems, inform your doctor before he prescribes these antibiotics. He may advise you to have regular blood work and liver function tests while taking certain antibiotics.

Antibiotics Safety

Antibiotics are usually safe if used correctly. To prevent liver damage while taking antibiotics, do not misuse or overuse the drugs. Follow instructions from your doctor and pharmacist. Keep a written record each time you take antibiotics including the name, strength and the time you take the antibiotic. Note the side effects you experience and share the information with your doctor, as it will help him determine the right antibiotic for you. Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else even if you have similar symptoms.

Acute Liver Failure

Overdosing on antibiotics can cause acute liver failure, which occurs when your liver loses its ability to function. Acute liver failure is a medical emergency that requires hospitalization. Most cases cannot be reversed. The only treatment may be a liver transplant. Symptoms of acute liver failure include nausea, vomiting, malaise, pain in the upper right area of your abdomen, yellowing of your skin and eyes, confusion and difficulty concentrating. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice these symptoms.

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