Elevated GGT: symptoms, possible causes and characteristics

It is likely that on several occasions we have had an occasional blood test, either to check the values ​​of things such as cholesterol, triglycerides or blood sugar, or the presentation of some kind of symptomatology suggesting the existence of a specific disease. (in this case, a more specific analysis is performed).

Thanks to them, we can detect a wide variety of pathologies, for example by observing altered levels of lipids, leukocytes or even certain enzymes. An example of this occurs when we have the high glutamyl transferase or GGT rangeAn indicator of the existence of possible damage to organs such as the liver.

Throughout this article, we’ll do a brief dissertation on what it is and what it can mean to have an elevated GGT, along with some conditions that can lead to it.

    What is GGT and when did we start to get it high?

    It is called gamma transferred glutamyl or GGT an important enzyme found in various organs of the human body, With a particular preponderance in the liver (being this one the organ in which it is in greatest proportion), the heart and the gall bladder but being also present in others like the kidneys or the brain.

    The main function of this enzyme is metabolize the main antioxidant that our body makes, glutathione, As well as transferring it to other amino acids. It thus contributes, among other things, to the maintenance of health and cellular homeostasis and to the strengthening of the immune system. As we said, it is part of several organs, being able to find certain levels of this enzyme in the blood.

    In general, normal values ​​between 0 and 30 or between 7 and 50 units per liter of blood are considered. Above these values, this enzyme is considered to be at an elevated level, which indicates the presence of lesions in one of the aforementioned organs, mainly in the first three and most likely in the liver. the increase it is usually due to filtration of the enzyme by damage or injury to these organs.

    How are their levels assessed and assessed?

    While this might not seem to cause symptoms in principle, it is common for what generates high levels of GGT to produce different alterations.

    These can vary widely depending on the causes, however the most common are the presence of jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin, weakness, changes in the color of the urine and feces (the first usually darkens and the second clears up), sudden decrease in appetite, itchy skin, gastrointestinal discomfort and pain, or nausea and vomiting, being indicators of the presence of damage which make it desirable to perform the appropriate analysis.

    Assessment of GGT levels will be performed by a blood testUsually after a period of time without eating or drinking. It is no more dangerous than other blood tests, and once you have the sample, the test is relatively quick to perform.

    However, it should be noted that having a high GGT does not have a single identifiable cause, not serving its levels as an accurate indicator of where the harm may be. This is why it is often necessary to carry out additional analyzes which evaluate other enzymes.

    Possible causes of elevated GGT

    As we just mentioned, there are many reasons that can cause us to have a high GGT, often requiring analysis of the levels of other substances to determine the cause concrete of this alteration. Among the most common causes of its rise above normal we can highlight the following.

    1. Hepatitis

    The different types of hepatitis, which these are inflammations of the liver that can come from such varied causes such as virus infection or food poisoning, have also been associated with the presence of alterations that facilitate the entry of GGT into the bloodstream, causing its levels to increase.

      2. Alcoholism and alcoholic cirrhosis

      Excessive alcohol consumption and its consequences on the liver is one of the possible causes that can cause us to have high GGT, due to the existence of lesions through which the enzyme exits into the bloodstream. An example is found in alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, in which the liver has degenerated in such a way that it presents a large number of scars and a very reduced functioning of the organ.

      3. Diabetes mellitus

      Another condition that can lead to high levels of GGT is diabetes mellitus, whether or not it is insulin dependent. The above-mentioned increase usually occurs mainly in people who do not follow treatment or medical recommendations, it is common in these cases that liver damage may appear. Fortunately, good glycemic control prevents GGT from rising.

      4. Liver cysts and tumors

      One reason that can also cause a high level of GGT in the blood is the presence of liver damage due to lesions caused by cysts and tumors, either because we are dealing with a tumor that appears in the organ or because that despite the fact of being in an elsewhere, it generates a pressure or a compression in / of it.

      5. Drug use

      An elevation in GGT is not always due to illness, but can also be derived from the effects of consuming certain drugs or substances. Among them can stand out certain antibiotics or medicines to treat epilepsy. Oral contraceptives are another type of medicine that can cause high levels of GGT. In addition, substances such as alcohol or phenobarbital (a barbiturate, an anxiolytic and a sedative) also cause an increase in GGT.

      6. Obstruction of the vesicular ducts or hypoperfusion of blood

      In addition to the above, there are other diseases and injuries that can lead to excessive emission of GGT into the blood, and the causes of this can be found in communication problems between the gallbladder and the liver or the lack of sufficient blood supply to the area. It can also be the result of internal bleeding.

      7. Heart failure

      Particularly common in the elderly population, the presence of heart problems such as heart failure also generates an increase in GGT, in this case not so much derived from the liver but from the main organ of the cardiovascular system.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Chernecky, CC and Berger, BJ (2013). Gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase (GGTP, gamma-glutamyltransferase): blood. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders: 559-560.
      • American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (2017). Blood test for gamma-glutamyl transferase (CGT). MedlinePlus [Online]. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/spanish/ency/article/003458.htm.

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