Inflammation has got a bad reputation. Much of it is well-deserved. Long-term inflammation can contribute to chronic illness and death. If one has relied on headlines for health information, one would have concluded that inflammation could cause cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and accelerated ageing. Unfortunately, it is not entirely true.
Still, understanding how chronic inflammation can impair heath has expanded dramatically in recent years. The commonly asked questions are:- Could one have inflammation without knowledge? How can one find out if he has inflammation? What are the tests for inflammation?
What are the different types of tests for inflammation?
Several tests are used to detect inflammation. But these tests can not distinguish between acute and chronic inflammation. For example, acute inflammation can occur with a cold, pneumonia, or an injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can occur along with diabetes, obesity, or autoimmune diseases.
Several scientific evidence shows that chronic, low-grade inflammation can cause cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.
The tests for inflammation include:-
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate:- This test measures the rate at which the red blood cells settle at the bottom of a test tube. In case of inflammation, the red blood cells settle faster as more proteins in the blood clump together. As the range varies by the lab, a typical result is 20 mm/he or less, while a value over 100 mm/hr is high.
- C-Reactive protein:- This protein is produced in the liver at the time of inflammation. An average value is usually less tgan3 mg/L. A value above 3 mg/L is used to identify the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Still, systemic inflammation can increase the CRP to 100mg/L or more.
- Ferritin:- This is a blood protein that reflects the quantity of iron present in the body. This test is often advised to calculate the amount of iron in the body. It is most commonly advised in anaemic person who is iron-deficient or those with excessive iron levels. Ferritin levels rise when inflammation sets in. The usual range of ferritin is 20-200 mcg/L.
- Fibrinogen:- Fibrinogen is used to evaluate the status of the blood clotting system. The usual range of fibrinogen lies between 200-400mg/dl.
Are the tests for inflammation functional?
These tests are helpful in the following cases:-
- Diagnosis of inflammatory conditions
Conditions like giant cell arteritis can be detected using these tests. In these cases, ESR is nearly always elevated. However, the high value of ESR doesn’t confirm the diagnosis. The diagnosis can only be confirmed if accompanying symptoms like jaw pain and headache are present.
- Monitoring inflammatory conditions: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can be monitored using tests like ESR and CRP.
None of the tests is perfect. Sometimes, false negative results can occur when inflammation is present. Conversely, false positive results may occur when abnormal test results suggest inflammation even when nine is present.
Should inflammation tests be done routinely?
Tests for inflammation are not a part of the routine medical care for all adults, and there are no guidelines that suggest performing these tests routinely.
CRP tests are done to assess cardiac risk and advise deciding on preventive treatment. For example, the risk of a heart attack can be assessed by checking out the CRP values. However, it is believed that CRP testing adds little value to the assessment using standard risk factors, such as a history of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, and positive family history of heart disease.
Shall tests for inflammation prove to be beneficial even if one has no symptoms of inflammation?
Chronic inflammation may not cause specific symptoms. But looking for evidence of inflammation without any clue may prove to be less helpful. Some of the risk factors for inflammation are:-
- Excessive weight gain
- Cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks and stroke
- Hepatitis C
- Autoimmune diseases
Tests for inflammation are included in medical evaluation and in monitoring health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. However, a better approach is to adopt healthy habits and get routine medical care. This would help in treating conditions that cause inflammation.