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Alanine Aminotransferase ALT

Also Known as: ALT ,Serum Glutamic-Pyruvic Transaminase , SGPT, GPT, Alanine Transaminase

What is an Alanine Aminotransferase  (ALT) test?

Alanine transaminase, or ALT, is an enzyme (enzymes are proteins that help the body perform and speed up essential processes) found primarily in the liver. ALT is released into the bloodstream when liver cells are damaged or destroyed and are one of the critical indicators in evaluating the condition of the liver. An ALT test measures the level of ALT in the blood. High levels of ALT in the blood can signal a liver problem even if you don't have any symptoms of liver illness, such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Early identification of liver illness may be aided by an ALT blood test which is evaluated in conjunction with other liver enzymes as part of a panel test, such as the liver panel or comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP).

What is the test used for?

An ALT blood test is a component of a liver function test performed during a regular health checkup by your healthcare provider. The goal of an ALT test is to determine the liver's health and assist diagnose liver issues. Other liver enzymes and substances in the blood are frequently examined with ALT and results combined to help in diagnosis, screening, and monitoring. Nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, itching, jaundice, fatigue, and loss of appetite are all symptoms that might be linked to liver disorders. In contrast, ALT levels in the blood might rise before symptoms appear in some liver disorders, so testing for ALT and other liver enzymes may be recommended for early identification. ALT and liver enzyme testing can also monitor specific medication adverse effects on liver health and function.

Why and when do you need this test?

As part of regular health checkups, or if you have liver disease indications or are at a higher risk for liver disease, your healthcare provider may order liver function tests, including an ALT blood test. Even if you don't have any symptoms, ALT can be regularly evaluated with other liver enzymes as a tool for the early diagnosis of liver disease. Repeated ALT tests can assist in monitoring the progression of liver disease if you have previously been diagnosed with it. ALT testing can also be used to monitor for possible side effects of medication when your doctor prescribes a medicine that may affect your liver. The symptoms may include the following:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Jaundice ( yellow discoloration of skin and eyes) 
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Unusual itching 
  • Fatigue (Tiredness)

The following are some of the risk factors for liver disease:

  • A history of liver disease in the family
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Hepatitis virus exposure or the possibility of exposure to hepatitis virus
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Taking certain medications that may damage the liver

What kind of sample is required for the test?

A small needle will be used by a healthcare professional to obtain a blood sample from a vein in your arm.  A small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial once the needle is inserted. When the needle goes in or out, it may sting a little. It usually takes less than five minutes to complete this process.

Do you need to prepare for the test?

An ALT blood test does not require any specific preparation. You may need to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the test if your health care provider has requested additional testing on your blood sample. If there are any special instructions to follow, your health care provider will inform you.

Are there any risks to this test?

Having a blood test carries relatively little risk. You may experience minor pain or bruising where the needle gets inserted, but most symptoms disappear quickly.

What do the test results mean?

An ALT blood test is often performed as part of a liver function test.   Liver function tests can evaluate how effectively your liver performs by measuring various proteins, chemicals, and enzymes. To understand more about your liver function, your health care provider may compare your ALT levels to the results of other liver tests. Hepatitis, infection, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other liver diseases can cause high ALT levels. Other factors, such as medications, can impact your results. Make a list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you have been taking and provide it to your healthcare provider, who may also take into account other factors that may affect ALT levels, such as:

Exercise: An increase in ALT levels may be caused by intense or excessive exercise.

Medications: ALT results can be affected by various medications and supplements.

Sex: Males have higher ALT levels than females due to hormonal differences.

Menstruation: ALT levels might fluctuate during menstruation in women. 

Age: There is little scientific evidence that ALT levels may decline as people get older.

Body mass index: Several studies have discovered a link between ALT levels and body mass index, which could influence the interpretation of test results in people who are obese.

Related Tests: Liver Function Panel, Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP Blood Test), Alkaline Phosphatase test (ALP), Bilirubin Test, Albumin Blood Test, Total Protein test, Albumin-Globulin (A/G) Ratio

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