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ESR Blood Test

ESR Blood Test

ESR is performed to check the presence of inflammation in the body, which may be caused due to some infection, cancer, or certain autoimmune disease. This article provides some basic information about this test.
Rajib Singha
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate; also known as sed rate or sedimentation rate. The ESR blood test is among the cost-effective, easy, and non-specific tests, which are employed to determine the extent of inflammation in the body, which include infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases. The reason this test is attributed as a non-specific test is its limitation to determine the exact location where the inflammation has occurred or what condition has caused the same. This is the reason why this test is conducted in conjunction with other tests. It helps in proper diagnosis of the medical condition.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate Blood Test Results
ESR test, as the name suggests, deals with the sedimentation of the erythrocytes (mature blood cells that contain hemoglobin to carry oxygen to the bodily tissues). The health professional draws a certain amount of blood from the patient and stores it in a vial. This vial is then left undisturbed and in an upright position. Over time, the red blood cells start descending. Depending upon the rate at which the red blood cells descend in an hour, the ESR value is measured and reported in mm/hr. When the body is affected by some infection (inflammation), the RBCs tend to stick to each other. This occurs due to the increased proportion of fibrinogen. Thereafter, the blood cells develop stacks known as rouleaux, and this substance has a tendency to settle faster. Hence, the faster the RBCs descend, the more inflammation is considered to be present in the body.
Normal Values
Age Measure (mm/hr)
Men under 50 Below 15
Men over 50 Below 20
Women under 50 Below 20
Women over 50 Below 30
Newborn 0-2
Neonatal to puberty 3- 3

An ESR level that shows a moderate increase than the normal one is indicative of inflammation and other conditions like aging, pregnancy, anemia, and certain infections. When the test results shoot up to a very high range, then it indicates severe infection, multiple myeloma (tumor of the bone marrow), Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia (cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system), polymyalgia rheumatica (inflammatory condition of the muscle), or temporal arteritis (inflammation of the temporal arteries; characterized by headaches and difficulty in chewing and sometimes visual impairment).
Lower than normal levels, although not very significant may indicate polycythemia, extreme leukocytosis, protein abnormalities, or sickle cell anemia.
Apart from the above conditions, there may be other conditions as well, which may cause increase in the ESR levels. So it is important to let the doctor know about any medicines that you are currently taking. However, it is possible that a person may have a normal ESR rate but may still be affected by some problem. That is why doctors do not draw inferences solely based on the ESR results. As aforementioned, there are other tests conducted as well.