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Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)

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Everything You Need to Know About Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) is a measure of how quickly red blood cells settle in a sample over time. This test helps diagnose anemia and other inflammatory diseases, as well as monitor treatments for these conditions. Learn what ESR results mean and why it’s an important diagnostic tool.

What is Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)?

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) is a common blood test used to measure the rate at which red blood cells (erythrocytes) settle in a sample of anticoagulated blood over time. The test helps diagnose illnesses related to anemia, as well as inflammatory diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and infections. It can also be used to monitor treatments for these conditions.
ESR is not a specific disease marker; instead it is an indicator that can provide clues to a diagnosis. It is often used in conjunction with other tests like complete blood counts and liver enzyme tests to help physicians create a treatment plan tailored to the individual patient. It also has prognostic value as very high or low ESR results can be associated with a worse outcome in some illnesses. Despite its drawbacks, ESR remains one of the most widely used tests in medicine today.

What Can Cause Abnormal ESR Results?

Abnormal ESR results can be caused by a variety of factors. Conditions that commonly cause an elevated ESR include anemia, leukemia, liver disease, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Anemia can lower the sedimentation rate, while systemic infections, certain cancers, and chronic conditions like diabetes may also affect the results. Medications including steroids, birth control pills, and antibiotics can also influence the ESR levels.

How is an ESR Test Performed?

An ESR test is usually performed using the Westergren method. A venipuncture sample is collected and placed into an anticoagulant such as EDTA or SPS before being placed into a tall, thin Westergren tube. The sample is then measured after one hour to measure the rate of red blood cell sedimentation. In some cases, an electronic device may be used instead to measure the red blood cell sedimentation rate over time.

What is Considered a Normal Range for an ESR Test?

The normal range for an ESR test can vary based on a person’s age, gender, and other factors. Generally speaking, the normal range for females is 0-20 mm/hr, while the range for males is 1-13 mm/hr. If the rate is higher than these ranges, it could indicate an underlying medical issue or infection. It’s important to speak with a doctor if you receive abnormal results from your ESR test.

What are the Safety Considerations with ESR Tests?

An ESR test is a very safe and simple procedure that usually poses no risk to the patient. There is no danger of being exposed to radiation, as with an X-ray or CT scan, and the needle used to take blood samples rarely causes any discomfort. Additionally, since the test results can be used to diagnose illnesses such as cancer and autoimmune diseases, it’s important to get regular ESR tests if you haven’t had one in a while.

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