CRP Blood Test For Peace Of Mind

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate) was the test that has stood the test of time, to check disease activity and progress in the body. Today, we still use that test, but a more accurate test is available. It is called CRP (C reactive Protein).

This blood test measures the amount of C-reactive protein (CRP) produced by your liver when you have inflammation somewhere in your body. Higher-than-normal levels of CRP may indicate inflammation or a bacterial infection, such as rheumatic fever. CRP levels do not always change with a viral infection. However, a CRP test cannot indicate where the inflammation is located or what is causing it. Other tests are needed to determine the cause and location of the inflammation.

It is a 'peace of mind' test when it is in the normal range, and has sleepless nights if the reading is high. A CRP test is most commonly done to monitor the activity of a range of inflammatory conditions. Some of these conditions are polymyalgia rheumatica, inflammatory bowel disease, temporal arteritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. This test can also be used to monitor your response to cancer treatment. It may be used to monitor your risk for infection after a major surgery.

There is no CRP in the normal blood unless there is some disease activity. A positive result is a worry to the doctor and the patient. Now a highly selective CRP is available (hs-CRP). This test is done to evaluate your risk for having a sudden heart problem, such as a heart attack. The connection between high CRP levels and heart attack risk is not fully known. Monitor your risk for infection after a surgical procedure. CRP levels normally rise within 2 to 6 hours of surgery and then decrease by the third day after surgery. If CRP levels stay elevated 3 days after surgery, an infection may be present. Diagnose and monitor the activity of some inflammatory and infectious conditions. CRP levels decrease in these conditions after treatment with corticosteroids or medications that suppress the immune system. Examples of inflammatory and infectious conditions include: Urinary tract infection, Bacterial meningitis, Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) Whole-body infection (sepsis) Appendicitis Polymyalgia rheumatica, Inflammatory bowel disease Temporal arteritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Gout, Reiter's syndrome, Crohn's disease, Acute pancreatitis, Hodgkin's lymphoma, Lymphoma, Tuberculosis and Burns.

Monitor cancer treatment or treatment of an infection. CRP levels elevate quickly and then become normal quickly if you are responding to treatment measures. Evaluate your risk or having a sudden heart problem, such as unstable angina or a heart attack. There is no special preparation for a C-reactive protein (CRP) test.

A C-reactive protein (CRP) test is more sensitive than an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test, but ESR may be used more frequently to help detect inflammation in the body. Neither CRP nor ESR indicates the cause of inflammation. However, CRP can detect inflammation sooner than ESR because CRP levels become elevated within 6 hours of the start of inflammation. ESR levels increase about a week after the start of inflammation.

Since CRP testing may help detect inflammation sooner than an ESR, a CRP test may be more helpful in detecting severe inflammation, such as inflammation caused by appendicitis or pelvic inflammatory disease. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a new test that measures very low amounts of CRP in the blood.

This test may be helpful in predicting your risk for heart problems, especially when it is combined with total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol tests. However, hs-CRP is not widely available. High CRP levels before a major surgery may indicate that you are at risk for developing an infection after surgery.

CRP testing can be used to monitor your response to cancer treatment or treatment of an infection. Your CRP levels will elevate quickly and then quickly return to normal if you are responding to treatment measures.

A recent study suggests a link between increased CRP levels and the development of age-related macular degeneration. Another recent study also suggests a link between increased CRP levels and an increased risk of colon cancer. It is advisable to get this test done on your annual blood tests check up with your doctor.


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