ESR blood test, Reasons for the test and Results

erythrocyte sedimentation rate test (ESR)

An erythrocyte sedimentation rate – ESR blood test is ordered by doctors when there is an infection or inflammation in the body.

An ESR blood test is a blood test that can show if you have inflammation in your body. The test measures how quickly red blood cells settle to the bottom of a test tube. Inflammation or infection can lead to extra proteins in the blood, which causes the red blood cells to settle more quickly.

What is an ESR blood test?

ESR is a blood test that can reveal inflammation in the body. The test measures how quickly red blood cells (RBCs) settle in a test tube. A high ESR indicates inflammation, while a low ESR may mean there is no inflammation present.

Red blood cells are known as erythrocytes. Inflammation causes red blood cells to clump together. Because these cell clumps are heavier than single cells, they sink faster.

If an ESR test reveals that your red blood cells sink faster than usual, you may have a medical condition that is causing inflammation. The speed with which your test results indicate how much inflammation you have. Higher levels of inflammation are associated with faster ESR rates. However, an ESR test alone cannot determine what is causing the inflammation.

Other names: Westergren sedimentation rate, ESR, SED rate sedimentation rate; erythrocyte sedimentation rate test.

What is it used for?

The ESR test is a blood test that can show if you have inflammation in your body. Inflammation can be caused by infection, autoimmune disease, or cancer. A sed rate test isn’t a stand-alone diagnostic tool, but it can help your doctor diagnose or monitor the progress of an inflammatory condition.

Why do I need an ESR blood test?

If you are experiencing symptoms of an inflammatory condition, your doctor may order an ESR. Your symptoms will vary depending on the condition, but they may include:

  • Unknown cause of fever
  • Headaches
  • Appetite loss
  • Stiffness of the joints
  • Pain in the neck or shoulders
  • Loss of weight
  • Anemia

Preparation for the ESR Test

This exam requires no special preparation. If your provider has ordered additional tests on your blood sample, you may be required to fast (not eat or drink) for a few hours before the to the test.

Before the test, make sure to tell your doctor about any drugs or supplements that you take because some medications may affect your results.

How the Test is Performed?

ESR blood test
ESR test

An erythrocyte sedimentation rate test (ESR) is a blood test that can reveal inflammatory activity in the body.
A small amount of blood is drawn from a vein in the arm. A healthcare professional places the sample of blood in a tall, thin test tube and measures how quickly the erythrocytes (red blood cells) settle or sink and The rate of fall (sedimentation)to the bottom of the tube.
The ESR test is typically used to help diagnose conditions such as infection, autoimmune disease, and cancer.

Risks and Complications of the Test

The ESR blood test is a simple and quick blood test that takes just a few minutes to complete. The procedure is very safe and poses little risk to the patient. The most common complication from the ESR test is bruising or pain at the needle injection site. Other potential risks and complications from the ESR test include false-positive or false-negative results, which can lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a serious condition.

“Related: Allergy Blood Test (IgE)

Understanding Your Results

ESR test results can be used to understand the level of inflammation in the body. Your provider will make a diagnosis based on the results of your ESR test, as well as your medical history, symptoms, and other test results. An ESR test alone cannot diagnose inflammatory conditions.

A high ESR test result could indicate an inflammatory condition, such as:

  • infections
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other immune-mediated diseases
  • Vasculitis throughout the body
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Rheumatic polymyalgia
  • IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease)
  • Arteritis
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney failure
  • Certain types of cancer

A low ESR test result indicates that your red blood cells sank slower than usual. This could be due to conditions such as:

  • A blood disorder, for example:
    • Polycythemia
    • Sickle cell anaemia (SCD)
    • Leukocytosis is characterised by an abnormally high white blood cell count (WBC)
  • Heart attack
  • Certain kidney and liver conditions.

If your ESR results are abnormal, this does not always indicate that you have a medical condition that requires treatment, such as:

  • Pregnancy
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Ageing.
  • Obesity
  • Regular alcohol consumption
  • Exercise
  • Certain medications and supplements.

so make sure to inform your provider of any medications or supplements you are taking.

Reference Range: Men: 0-15 mm/hour; women: 0-20 mm/hour

Related tests

The ESR blood test is neither sensitive nor specific as a general screening test. Because an elevated ESR may occur in multiple clinical settings, it is not a reliable indicator of disease activity. In conclusion, the ESR test is not a useful tool for diagnosing or monitoring disease activity.

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