How pain relievers can harm the liver

by Rose Carmelle Lacuata,

Posted at May 14 2014 01:15 AM | Updated as of May 14 2014 09:15 AM

MANILA -- The health of a person's liver can be determined through the level of certain enzymes in the body, a gastroenterologist explained on Tuesday.

On radio DZMM's "Magandang Gabi Dok," Dr. Edward Lim, a gastroenterologist from the Chinese General Hospital, said a person can determine if his or her liver is healthy by undergoing a routine blood test.

He said this can be done by determining the level of serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) or serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT) in the blood.

Both SGOT and SGPT are enzymes that can be found in a person's liver.

"Marami kasi sa mga pasyente, kapag nagpa-routine blood examination, lumalabas na mataas ang katas sa atay. Ibig sabihin, may problema sila (sa atay)," Lim said.

If the SGPT is higher than the SGOT, then it means that there is something wrong with the liver.

However, if the SGOT is higher than the SGPT, then it means that there is something wrong with the tubes of one's liver.

Lim said people who often consume alcoholic drinks usually have higher levels of SGOT in their blood, which means they might have problems with the tubes on their liver.

"Sa tubo ng atay dumadaan ang mga katas o enzymes papunta sa small intestines. 'Yung bile, tumutulong sa digestion. Kapag may bumabara sa tubo ng atay, hindi makakalabas yung enzymes, mamamaga siya," he added.

On the other hand, a person with higher levels of SGPT in his blood may have liver problems such as hepatitis, fatty liver, or a damaged liver caused by medication.

Lim explained that all medicines are metabolized either in the kidney and liver, and may have bad effects on the organs if taken beyond the recommended dose.

"Medicines hit the liver or the kidney. Kailangan silang ilabas, otherwise, nagiging toxic. Kapag sobra ang dosage, nakakasira ng kidney o atay."

Some medicines that affect the liver are pain relievers like acetaminophen and paracetamol, and medication used to cure tuberculosis.

Lim clarified that these medicines can only affect the liver if the person takes more than the required dosage.

He said this is a common problem in the US and Europe, but is uncommon in the Philippines.

"Sa Pilipinas hindi masyadong problema kasi marami, hindi compliant sa gamot. Minsan kahit 1 linggo dapat, iinumin lang ang gamot, 2 araw," Lim said.

Some people, especially those who are overweight, or have a diet high in fat, may suffer from fatty liver.

"Nagkakaroon ng fatty liver kapag hindi na alam ng liver kung anong gagawin sa excess fat. Namamaga ang atay, nababalutan ng taba. 'Yung mga pagitan ng cells ng atay, may taba," Lim added.

He also explained that men should have an SGPT below 30, while women should have SGPT below 20.

Those who want to know if they have problems with their liver should undergo a blood test, and have their liver enzymes checked.