Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) is an enzyme found mainly in the liver and kidneys. When your liver is damaged, ALT is released into your blood. An ALT screening tests how much ALT is in your blood and helps detect liver disease or damage early. Since an ALT screening is a blood test, you will need to have blood drawn. You may get an ALT screening done as part of a series of tests done to test liver enzymes, often called a liver panel.

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Who should be screened?

An ALT screening can detect issues with your liver very early, sometimes even before other symptoms appear. Mild liver damage often doesn’t have signs or symptoms, so if you are at risk, you may consider getting screened.

What are causes of liver damage?

Some causes of liver damage—and reasons for scheduling an ALT test—include:

  • Hepatitis or exposure to the hepatitis virus
  • Use of toxic substances, like drugs or alcohol
  • Family history
  • Diabetes or obesity

What are symptoms of liver damage?

Usually, an ALT screening is ordered when you show signs and symptoms of a liver disorder. Symptoms of liver damage include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain and/or swelling
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin
  • Dark urine and light-colored stool
  • Itching

What should you expect with a ALT screening?

Low levels of ALT are normal. If you have high ALT levels, it could indicate liver disease, hepatitis or viral infection. If you have high ALT levels, speak to your healthcare provider about your next steps. Some drugs, natural health products or supplements, strenuous exercise and injections can also raise your ALT levels.

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