Chronic Inflammation and Related Blood Tests
Chronic inflammation is sometimes called a “silent killer” due to the fact that it often doesn’t manifest any physical symptoms. While it may not create any symptoms of its own, chronic inflammation can contribute to a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and numerous forms of cancer.
Fortunately, there are several different types of blood tests available that can be used to detect chronic inflammation in the body, and at St. Jude Labs, inflammation testing is one of the many services offered in our extensive blood testing menu. To help you decide if you should get tested for chronic inflammation, we’ll take a look at what chronic inflammation is, the negative effects that it can cause, and the types of blood tests used to diagnose chronic inflammation.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
Inflammation occurs when the immune system sends out cells to heal an injury or fight bacteria and is a vital part of the healing process. When inflammation persists long after the injury or illness that triggered it has healed, though, (or when there isn’t any injury or illness to heal in the first place) it is known as chronic or long-term inflammation and can create a number of problems.
The most common causes of chronic inflammation are autoimmune disorders such as lupus, exposure to toxins from pollutants or industrial chemicals, or acute inflammation due to injury or illness that is left untreated.
What Risks Does Chronic Inflammation Pose?
If you’ve heard all the buzz about fighting inflammation and avoiding inflammatory foods, you’ve probably already gathered that chronic inflammation is a bad thing. Chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to numerous diseases, including:
Types of Blood Tests Used to Diagnose Chronic Inflammation
Without thorough testing, chronic inflammation is often difficult to diagnose. Since chronic inflammation can be treated when properly diagnosed, though, It’s important to detect it as soon as possible.
Today, physicians rely on several blood tests to diagnose chronic inflammation, including:
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate or ESR): This test measures the rate at which red blood cells fall to the bottom of a vertical test tube. When inflammation is present, red blood cells will fall faster. Typical ranges for ESR testing vary from lab to lab, but a normal result tends to be 20 mm/hr or less, and a result of 100 mm/hr is considered abnormally high.
- C-reactive protein (CRP): CRP is a protein produced in the liver, and CRP levels tend to rise in the presence of inflammation. A normal level for this protein is less than 3 mg/L, but chronic inflammation can sometimes cause CRP levels of 100 mg/L or more.
- Ferritin: Ferritin levels will rise when there is too much iron in the body but will also rise in the presence of inflammation. Typical ranges for ferritin levels vary from lab to lab and tend to be higher for men. However, a typical normal range is 20 to 200 mcg/L.
- Fibrinogen: Fibrinogen is a protein that is typically used to evaluate the body’s blood clotting system, but its levels will also rise in the presence of inflammation. Normal fibrinogen levels are 200 to 400 mg/dL.
Should You Get Tested for Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can be treated with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Corticosteroids are often prescribed to reduce chronic inflammation, and proper diet and exercise can help as well. Before these treatments can be introduced, though, chronic inflammation must first be diagnosed.
Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is one of the conditions most likely to go undiagnosed until it’s too late due to its lack of signs and symptoms. For this reason, it is recommended that everyone undergo blood testing for chronic inflammation as part of their regular medical testing routine. At St. Jude Labs, we offer a comprehensive panel of blood tests that can detect chronic inflammation along with a wide range of other key markers and diseases. To schedule an appointment for swift and accurate blood testing from St. Jude Labs, be sure to contact us today!