High levels of inflammation in the body can be measured using various laboratory tests. Some commonly used markers include C-reactive protein (CRP), BSE sedimentation rate, Leucocytes and specific antibodies such as anti-CCP and rheumatoid factor.
There are several blood tests you can use to measure inflammation levels in your blood. These tests measure specific markers that indicate whether inflammation is present in the body. Some common inflammatory markers are:
- HS-CRP High Sensitive CRP, not only says something about your inflammation levels, but also about low-grade inflammation which can be a predictor for cardiovascular disease.
- C-reactive protein (CRP): CRP is a protein produced in the liver in response to inflammation. CRP levels rise rapidly when there is an inflammatory process in the body.
- Sedimentation rate (BSE or ESR): The ESR measures how quickly red blood cells settle in a tube. An increased sedimentation rate can indicate inflammation, but it is a less specific marker than CRP. This test is actually aging; sedimentation used to be used to detect inflammation, now used with CRP.
- White blood cells (leukocytes): An increased number of white blood cells may indicate inflammation or infection in the body.
- Interleukin-6 (IL-6): IL-6 is a cytokine involved in inflammatory responses. Elevated IL-6 levels may indicate systemic inflammation.
- Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α): This is another cytokine involved in inflammatory processes. Elevated TNF-α levels are associated with inflammatory diseases.
The causes of elevated inflammatory blood levels can be diverse. Some common causes include:
Infections: Bacterial, viral or fungal infections can cause inflammation.
Autoimmune diseases: Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Crohn's disease are examples of autoimmune diseases in which the immune system attacks its own body, leading to inflammation.
Joint inflammation: Inflammation of the joints, such as arthritis, can lead to elevated inflammatory levels.
Cardiovascular disease: Inflammation plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease.
Chronic diseases: Chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes can cause low levels of systemic inflammation.
Cancer: Some cancers can lead to inflammatory reactions in the body.
Injuries or trauma: Physical injury can cause local inflammation.
An elevated inflammation level by itself is not a diagnosis. It is usually an indication of an underlying health problem. If you suspect that your inflammation levels are elevated, it is advisable to seek medical advice so that the cause can be identified and treated. Treatment may vary depending on the underlying cause of the inflammation.
For example, there are specific tests for certain conditions such as rheumatism and arthritis:
Anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrulline peptide) and rheumatoid factor are not direct inflammatory markers, but they are antibodies often measured in blood tests to diagnose and monitor autoimmune diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis. They are closely linked to inflammatory processes in the body because rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that causes joint inflammation.
Anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrulline peptide)
This is an antibody that targets citrulline, an amino acid involved in inflammatory processes. High levels of anti-CCP are often found in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is a specific marker that helps in the early diagnosis of the disease.
Rheumatoid factor is an antibody that targets IgG antibodies. Although rheumatoid factor is not specific to rheumatoid arthritis, it is often measured as part of the diagnosis. Elevated levels of rheumafactor are associated with several autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, but they can also occur in other conditions.
Although anti-CCP and rheumatoid factor do not directly measure inflammatory levels, they are valuable indicators of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The presence and levels of these antibodies are used to assess inflammation severity and disease progression. They are often measured along with other inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and sedimentation rate to provide a more complete picture of health.