Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary
Many of us have been recommended for the CRP test by our doctor but very few know about it. What is a CRP test? What does the CRP levels say about your health? What are the ranges of CRP? These are some of the important questions that often troubles us.
In order to get answers to all our queries, let us have a look at some of the facts about C-reactive protein test.
What is C-reactive protein?
CRP is a test for the inflammation in the body. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance produce by the liver in response to inflammation. LDL (low -density lipoprotein) cholesterol coats the walls of the arteries and also damages them. This causes an inflammation. The body fights it back by sending a response team of proteins called ‘acute phase reactants’. CRP is one of them. The levels are measured by a blood test called CRP test.
Raised levels of CRP in the blood test result is an indicative of inflammation.
When are the CRP levels raised?
The CRP levels can be raised in case of certain following conditions:
- Burns: Burn wounds induces excessive inflammatory response which increases the level of CRP.
- Trauma: CRP is considered as an important marker for post traumatic stress disorder.
- Infections: High levels of CRP indicates bacterial infection; the CRP levels do not always change in case of viral infection.
- Inflammation of Joints: An elevated C-reactive protein level in the blood can also be a part of the comprehensive diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. If a patient is being tested for RA then the doctor will suggest a standard CRP test as it also indicates how well the treatment for RA is working.
- Chronic inflammatory disease: Increased CRP levels acts as a marker for chronic diseases like lupus and vasculitis.
- Cardiovascular diseases: The elevated levels of CRP have been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Atherosclerosis or cholesterol plaguing of the arteries is known to have an inflammatory component that is the reason for the rise in CRP levels in the blood.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel diseases results in stimulating cytokines which triggers the elevated production of CRP. CRP not only acts as an indicator but also as an anti-inflammatory agent (controlling the inflammation in the body).
- Certain form of cancers: High level of CRP in an individual identifies with high risk of cancer as it is an important inflammatory marker.
Diagnosis of CRP
There are no noticeable symptoms of high CRP levels, it can only be detected by a blood test. There are two blood tests to check for the elevated levels of CRP:
- Non-specific elevation of CRP: This occurs with general inflammatory changes in the body
- Hs-CRP: It is a measure of inflammation in blood vessels
Interpretation of the test results
C-reactive protein is measured in milligrams of CRP per litre of blood (mg/L). If there is:
- Normal C-reactive protein level: Normal levels of CRP ranges below 3mg/dl. It is an indicator of less inflammation in the body and low risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- High C-reactive protein level: CRP levels above 3.0mg/dl fall under the high CRP range. It indicates inflammation in the body and higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
CRP reading of greater than 10 mg/L is indicative of:
- Bone infection or osteomyelitis
- Autoimmune arthritis flare-up
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Lupus, connective tissue disease or other autoimmune diseases
- Cancer (mainly lymphoma)
- Pneumonia or other significant infection
High Sensitivity hs-CRP test is conducted to determine the CRP levels in the body and the health risks posed by it.
Treatment of elevated levels CRP
CRP levels are elevated as a response to any inflammation or infection present in the body. High levels of CRP can be reduced by the appropriate treatment and prevention of the underlying risk factors and conditions.
The elevated levels of CRP often correlates with the presence of the various cardiac risk factors including hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, obesity, advanced age, cigarette smoking, and strong family history of cardiac disease. Diet, exercise and appropriate medical management of all the risk factors can help in controlling the CRP levels.
Although there is no specific symptom of an increased level of CRP yet it acts an indicator for various health problems. So, do not think twice, get tested!