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What is an ALT Alanine Aminotransferase test and how to interpret the results

The alanine aminotransferase exam, also known as ALT or TGP, is a blood test that can help to identify liver damage and possible diseases due to the elevated presence of the enzyme alanine aminotransferase, also called glutamic pyruvic transaminase in the blood, which is normally found between 7 and 56 U / L of blood.

The enzyme pyruvic transaminase is present inside liver cells and, therefore, when there is a lesion in this organ, caused by a virus or toxic substances, for example, it is common that the enzyme is released into the bloodstream, leading to increased levels that are detected in your blood test, which can mean:

What is an ALT Alanine Aminotransferase test and how to interpret the results

Very high levels of ALT

  • 10 times higher than normal: these values are usually due to an acute hepatitis caused by viruses or the use of certain drugs; 
  • 100 times higher than normal: it is very common in drug users, alcohol abuse or other substances that cause serious damage to the liver.

High levels of ALT

  • 4 times higher than normal: it may be a sign of chronic hepatitis and, therefore, may indicate liver disease such as cirrhosis or cancer, for example.

Although it is a very specific marker for liver damage, this enzyme can also be found in the muscles and heart in smaller amounts, and an increase in the concentration of this enzyme in the blood can be verified after intense physical exercises, for example. Therefore, in order to evaluate liver function and identify possible lesions to the liver, the physician may request the testing of other enzymes, such as lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and AST or TGO.

What to do if your ALT levels are high

In cases in which the pyruvate transaminase test presents an elevated amount, it is recommended you see a hepatologist so that he can do an assessment of your clinical history and to identify what may casing these liver changes. The doctor may also ask for more specific tests such as hepatitis tests or liver biopsy to confirm the diagnostic hypothesis.

In addition, in cases of elevated ALT it is also recommended you follow a proper diet for the liver, low in fat and giving preference to cooked foods. 

What is an ALT Alanine Aminotransferase test and how to interpret the results

When to do a ALT exam

The alanine aminotransferase test is used to detect liver damage and therefore may be recommended for people who have:

  • Fat in the liver or are overweight;
  • Excessive tiredness;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Swelling of the belly;
  • Dark urine;
  • Skin and yellow eyes.

However, ALT levels may already be high even when the patient does not have any symptoms, and is a great tool for early diagnosis of liver problems. In this way, the ALT test can also be done when there is a history of exposure to the hepatitis virus, excessive use of alcoholic beverages or the presence of diabetes.

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