CRP Blood Tests

Blood Tests to Detect Inflammation

CRP are blood tests that detect inflammation. These are useful tests to help diagnose and monitor the activity of certain diseases.

Inflammation and blood proteins

If you have inflammation in a part of your body then extra protein is often released from the site of inflammation and circulates in the bloodstream. The CRP and ESR blood tests are commonly used to detect this increase in protein, and so are ‘markers’ of inflammation.

C Reactive Protein (CRP)

This is sometimes called an ‘acute phase protein’. This means that the level of CRP increases when you have certain diseases which cause inflammation. CRP can be measured in a blood sample.

What conditions affect the ESR and CRP level?

The ESR and CRP level are raised many inflammatory conditions. For example:

  • Certain infections (mainly bacterial infections)
  • Abscesses
  • Certain types of arthritis
  • Various other muscular and connective tissue disorders
  • Tissue injury and burns
  • Cancers
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Rejection of an organ transplant
  • Heart attack

Some conditions lower the ESR. For example, heart failure, polycythaemia, sickle-cell anaemia, and cryoglobulinemia.

When are these tests used?

To help diagnose diseases
The ESR and CRP are ‘non-specific’ tests. Basically, a raised level means that ‘something is going on’, but further tests will be needed to clarify the cause of the illness. For example, you may be ‘unwell’ but the cause may not be clear. A raised ESR or CRP may indicate that some inflammatory condition is likely to be the cause.

To monitor the activity of certain diseases
For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, the amount of inflammation and disease activity can partially be assessed by measuring one of these blood tests. As a rule, the higher the level, the more ‘active’ the disease. The response to treatment may also be monitored as the level of CRP or ESR may fall if the condition is responding well to treatment.

Both tests are useful. However, changes in the CRP are more rapid. So, for example, a fall in the CRP within days of starting treatment for certain conditions is a useful way of knowing that treatment is working. This may be important to know when treating a serious infection or a severe flare up of an inflammatory condition. For example, if the CRP level does not fall, it may indicate that the treatment is not working and may prompt a doctor to switch to a different treatment.