Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is an enzyme found throughout our bloodstream. ALP assists in the breakdown of proteins in the body and exists in different forms, depending on where it originates. Most commonly produced by the liver, ALP is also made in our bones, intestine, kidneys, and (in pregnant women) the placenta creates ALP.
Tests to determine ALP levels in blood are performed during routine assessments of liver function and bone density.
Symptoms of liver disease include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea / vomiting.
Symptoms of bone disease include:
- Bone / joint pain
- Increased frequency of fractures
- Deformed bones
It is worth noting that some medicines, including: antibiotics, birth control pills, long-term aspirin use, and oral diabetic medications may affect the results of an ALP test.
Normal Ranges in years : U/L
- Low levels of ALP may be seen temporarily after blood transfusions or heart bypass surgery. A deficiency in zinc may cause decreased levels. A rare genetic disorder of bone metabolism called hypophosphatasia can cause severe, protracted low levels of ALP.
- Conditions that lead to malnutrition (for instance, celiac disease) or the result of lack of nutrients in the diet (such as scurvy) can be the cause of a low ALP level; although, it is rare.
High levels of ALP can be caused by liver diseases, including: hepatitis, cirrhosis, blockage of the bile ducts, gallstones, liver cancer, or cancer that has spread to the liver from another part of the body.
High ALP may also indicate bone diseases such as: Paget’s disease, osteomalacia, vitamin D deficiency, rickets, bone tumors, or tumors that have spread to the bones from another part of the body. Cardiovascular problems such as heart failure or heart attack are also known to increase ALP levels.
Women going through menopause typically have a higher ALP level than women who still have menstrual cycles, and children are known to have high ALP levels due to rapid bone growth. In addition, pregnant women usually show higher ALP levels.
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