The human body is a complex system composed of organs, elements and chemicals interacting and complementing one another. Most of us – especially those not in the field of medicine – only have a vague idea of what each composition is responsible for; some are even clueless to what their own body can actually do. However, because of the complexity of our bodies, understanding it is not such an easy feat.

In an attempt to simplify the way our body works, we shall discuss one of the most basic chemical compositions present in our system – an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase (ALP) which is responsible for the removal of the phosphate from protein and other molecules. It is made in different parts of the body, each producing an estimated amount. The liver is responsible for the creation of the largest amount of ALP, followed by the bones, intestines and kidneys.

The level of alkaline phosphate in the blood is also a great benchmark for monitoring abnormal phenomenon in the body. There are certain factors that lead to an elevated alkaline phosphatase – some of which are serious medical conditions that need immediate attention.

Identifying a Disease with the ALP Test

Doctors can require a patient to have an ALP test when symptoms of liver disease or bone problems are observed. For the former, symptoms may include belly pain, nausea and jaundice. The latter condition’s symptoms, usually discovered through X-ray scans, are bone tumors, rickets and an increase in parathyroid hormone which controls bone growth. Also, an ALP test can be used to check if a person taking certain prescription for liver damage is suffering from side effects.   

How the ALP Test is Done

Food and liquid intake is not advised six hours prior the test, unless the doctor instructs otherwise. There are also certain drugs that can affect the ALP level in the blood such as antibiotics, birth control pills and tranquilizers. With a doctor’s consent, these should not be taken prior the test as well. The ATP test is conducted in a similar fashion with other blood tests. A sample of blood is drawn from the veins, either from the back of the hand or inside of the elbow.  

Causes of Elevated Alkaline Phosphatase Levels

The probability of having liver dysfunction is significant when ALP levels are higher than normal. Liver problems such as hepatitis, cholestasis, cirrhosis, fatty liver and liver tumor cannot be ruled out. It can also indicate an obstruction of the bile duct caused by stones or sludge. In addition to biliary obstruction and liver problems, a gallbladder dysfunction also causes higher levels of alkaline phosphatase enzymes.

However, when confirmed that the elevated ALP level is not associated with the aforementioned illnesses, bone disease is the next probable cause. ALP levels can rise when a patient is suffering from the simplest bone fracture to more complex cases of Paget's disease, bone metastases and a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma.

On a positive note, it is also possible that an increase in enzyme level is not caused by a disease but by growth and development. Bone forming cells known as osteoblast produce ALP, so growing children and adolescents usually have elevated alkaline phosphatase levels. During pregnancy, women can also experience this condition since the placenta produces ALP.

May it be due to a serious condition or a normal phenomenon in the human body, an elevated alkaline phosphatase points doctors to the right diagnosis. However, patients must also get an idea of what they could be facing, and how this simple test can subdue their doubts. By understanding the uses of the ALP test, people can begin to understand how chemicals and elements work in the human body.