Is an ESR Test?
An erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test is sometimes
called a sedimentation rate test or sed rate test. This test doesn’t diagnose
one specific condition. Instead, it helps your doctor determine whether you’re
experiencing inflammation. The doctor will look at ESR results along with other
information or test results to help figure out a diagnosis. The tests ordered
will depend on your symptoms. This test can also monitor inflammatory diseases.
In this test, a tall, thin tube holds a sample of your
blood. The speed at which the red blood cells fall to the bottom of the tube is
measured. Inflammation can cause abnormal proteins to appear in your blood.
These proteins cause your red blood cells to clump together. This makes them
fall more quickly.
Doctors Perform an ESR Test
Your doctor may order an ESR test to help detect
inflammation in your body. This can be useful in diagnosing conditions that
cause inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases, cancers, and infections.
An ESR test can monitor inflammatory conditions, such as
rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus. Your doctor might also
order this test if you’re experiencing fevers, some types of arthritis, or certain
The ESR test is rarely performed alone. Instead, your doctor
will combine it with other tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
for the ESR Test
Many different medications and drugs affect your ESR test
results. These include:
- androgens, such as testosterone
- aspirin or other salicylates, when taken in high
- valproic acid (Depakene)
- divalproex sodium (Depakote)
- phenytoin (Dilantin)
Tell your doctor if you’re taking any medication. Your
doctor may ask you to temporarily stop taking medication before the test.
This test involves a blood draw. First, the skin directly
over your vein is cleaned. Then, a needle is inserted to collect your blood. After
collecting your blood, the needle will be removed and the puncture site will be
covered to stop any bleeding. It should take only a minute or two.
of the ESR Test
Having your blood drawn involves has minimal risks. Possible
- excessive bleeding
- hematoma, or bruising
- inflammation of the vein
You will probably feel mild to moderate pain when the needle
pricks your skin. You might also feel throbbing at the puncture site after the
ESR Test Results
ESR test results are measured in mm/hr, or millimeters per hour.
The following are considered normal ESR test results:
- Women under age 50 should have an ESR under 20
- Men under age 50 should have an ESR under 15
- Women over age 50 should have an ESR under 30
- Men over age 50 should have an ESR under 20
- Newborns should have an ESR under 2 mm/hr.
- Children who haven’t reached puberty yet should
have an ESR between 3 and 13 mm/hr.
Do Abnormal ESR Test Results Mean?
An abnormal ESR result doesn’t diagnose any particular
disease. It just identifies any inflammation in your body.
This test isn’t always reliable or meaningful. Many factors,
such as age or medication use, can alter your results.
Abnormal results don’t tell your doctor what is actually
wrong. Instead, they indicate a need to look further. Your doctor will usually
order follow-up tests if your ESR results are too high or low.
High ESR Test Results
There are multiple causes of a high ESR test result. Some
common conditions associated with high rates include:
- kidney disease
- multiple myeloma
- old age
- temporal arteritis
- thyroid disease
- Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia
- certain types of arthritis
ESR test results that are higher than normal are also
associated with autoimmune disorders, including:
- systemic lupus erythematosus
- rheumatoid arthritis
- giant cell arteritis
- polymyalgia rheumatica
- primary macroglobulinemia
- too much fibrinogen in your blood, or hyperfibrinogenemia
- allergic or necrotizing vasculitis
Some types of infection that cause ESR test results to
become higher than normal are:
- bone infection
- heart infection
- heart valve infection
- rheumatic fever
- skin infection
- systemic infection
Low ESR Test Results
A low ESR test result may be due to:
- congestive heart failure
- low plasma protein
- sickle cell anemia
Some causes of abnormal ESR test results are more serious
than others, but many aren’t a huge concern. It’s important not to worry too
much if your ESR test results are abnormal. Instead, work with your doctor to
find out what’s causing your symptoms.