C-Reactive Protein Test

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is the C-Reactive protein test?

This is a test that measures the level of C – reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. The protein, which was discovered around 70 years ago, is produced in the liver and is released in the bloodstream when there is an inflammation in the body. The release of the protein is the body’s reaction to some injury that causes inflammation or any particular infection. However, the test cannot detect the location of the inflammation or the reason for the infection if any. The levels of the protein will drop once the condition has been brought under control and hence the test is often used to track the progress of certain infections. This is a fast and simple test that is often combined with other blood tests.

What is the C-Reactive protein?

The protein has also been linked to atherosclerotic vascular disease which is due to the narrowing of blood vessels. This may happen over time and can be triggered by an injury to the blood vessel. This can cause the deposition of inflammatory cells along with cholesterol to form inside the vessel. With time, any rupture in this layer can lead to a further rise in the inflammatory process, which may impede the blood flow causing a stroke. In some special cases, a high-sensitivity CRP test needs to be done which can detect much smaller changes in the protein levels.

What do high levels of C-reactive protein signify?

As the rise in C – reactive protein can be associated with a variety of inflammatory processes or infections, a careful diagnosis needs to be done by the doctor the find the root cause. In many cases, multiple tests are done within a fixed period of time and the average value is taken for a more accurate representation.

Statistics have indicated that among healthy adult males with no previous history of heart disease, higher levels of CRP can indicate higher chances of a future heart attack. For women, higher CRP levels are better indicators of coronary conditions than cholesterol levels. The elevated C-reactive protein level has no particular signs or symptoms as it is not a specific test. Any sign or symptoms like pain, redness or swelling can be related to the inflammatory condition or the infection.

Why do I need to undergo a C-Reactive protein test?

The test can be used to monitor different conditions that lead to inflammation in the system. These include the following.

– Bacterial infections, such as sepsis (blood poisoning), which is severe and at times a life-threatening condition.

– Certain autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms for the same include joint swelling and pain, morning stiffness, tiredness, weight loss, and low-grade fevers.

– A fungal or a viral infection.

– Inflammatory bowel disease, a disorder that causes swelling and bleeding in the intestines including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

– An infection of the bones called osteomyelitis.

– An organ or a tissue injury.

– To check for pericarditis, which is inflammation in the linings of the heart.

The test is also used to determine the chances of a heart attack, in cases when cholesterol levels are not sufficient indicators. It is also done for follow-up treatments and to estimate the chances of a second attack. The test can also be done to monitor the progress of a treatment being conducted for an infection or chronic disease.

If the protein levels are down, it means that the treatment is showing positive results. It can also be used after surgery to ensure that you are free of any post-surgery infection.

How is a C-Reactive protein test performed?

The test is a simple blood test where a blood sample is drawn from your veins and sent to the laboratory for testing. The process generally includes the following steps.

– A healthcare practitioner disinfects the area from where the blood sample will be done. A vein near the elbow region is used in most cases.

– A rubber band is tied around the upper arm to increase the blood flow through the vein and make it appear prominent.

– A needle is inserted in the vein and the required volume of blood, which is generally around 5 ml, is drawn into an attached tube.

– The needle is withdrawn and the site is kept under pressure to prevent any further blood loss. It is then covered by a sterile bandage.

Other than a slight prick or pain felt during the insertion of the needle, the test is simple and free from complications. In some cases finding the right vein might be difficult and multiple attempts with the needle may be necessary.

There have been rare incidents of a patient feeling dizzy or light-headed after the blood is withdrawn. Any pain or bruising in the collection site is generally cured within a few days. In rare cases, excess bleeding or infection may happen which needs to be treated.

What is the price for a C-Reactive protein test in India? 

The cost for the C-reactive protein test in India ranges from Rs 150 to Rs 800 depending on the center and the quality of the facilities involved.

When will I get the test results?

The test results generally need a few days to get generated.

What is the normal range for a C-Reactive protein test?

The general guidelines for the normal results of a CRP test vary. Usually, levels below 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) are usually considered normal or free from infections. In most cases, the following values are taken into consideration for a general evaluation.

Levels between 3 mg/L and 10 mg/L are considered as mildly elevated and usually result from chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or lifestyle-related factors.

Levels between 10 mg/L and 100 mg/L are moderately elevated. They are usually due to more significant inflammations and also indicate a higher risk from cardiac ailments. Levels above 100 mg/L are severely elevated and almost always a sign of a severe infection or an acute coronary ailment.

In case a special high sensitivity CRP test is done for cardiovascular conditions, the following values are considered as benchmarks.

– Values less than 1 mg/L is classified as low risk.
– Values between 1 mg/L and 2.9 mg/L are classified as moderate risk.
– High risk is for results that are greater than 3 mg/L.

What do the results mean?

The low or moderately elevated results can be difficult to interpret and can be due to any of the following conditions.

– Medications that reduce inflammation in the body, such as some cholesterol-reducing medicines and specific nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may lower CRP levels.

– Minor injuries or infection.

– Conditions that cause persistent inflammation, including autoimmune diseases, like arthritis.

– Estrogen-based medications such as birth control pills and hormone replacement medications may raise CRP levels.

– Pregnancy can elevate CRP levels, especially during the later stages.

– Conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetes or a sedentary lifestyle involving smoking.

The doctor can classify the risk factor from any cardiovascular ailment that you might be facing depending on the test results and suggest the best course of treatment. In case there are no external symbols, very high levels can indicate the presence of an underlying bacterial or fungal infection. Certain types of cancers, pericarditis, and pneumonia can also bring about high CRP levels. To pinpoint an exact condition like rheumatoid arthritis, further tests might be ordered.

Do I need to fast for the C-Reactive protein test?

Fasting or following any dietary restriction is not necessary for the test.

What else do I need to know before I appear for a C-Reactive protein test?

The CRP test is simple in nature and the following points will assist in getting to know the test and associated results better.

A high level of CRP does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from a cardiac ailment. For any patient who is pregnant or has any other chronic infection or inflammatory disease, the CRP test alone is not sufficient to assess the risk of heart disease.

The CRP level is termed as a biomarker and is not a precise indicator of any health problem. In case you have higher levels of the protein, the doctor may suggest lifestyle and dietary changes as a part of the treatment plan.

Routine follow-up with the doctor is often necessary if any high-risk ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and others are established.

What is hs-CRP or high sensitivity CRP test?

A high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test, which is more sensitive than a standard test, also can be used to determine the chances of developing CAD or coronary artery disease, a condition in which the arteries of your heart are narrowed. It can easily turn into a heart attack if not treated in time.

Doctors believe that a high level of hs-CRP in your blood is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks. A CRP test doesn’t accurately indicate the cause of inflammation. In such cases, a high hs-CRP level could mean there’s inflammation caused by something besides your heart.

Whether hs-CRP is the cause of high inflammation or just a marker for the same is a highly debated topic. The hs-CRP test is not prescribed for all, only for those who show a higher risk of contracting heart diseases (genetics or lifestyle factors).

Can pregnant women undergo a C-Reactive protein test?

A pregnant woman can undergo the test without any restrictions.

Is a C-reactive protein test possible for new-born babies?

The test can be conducted on new-borns if it is suggested by a medical practitioner.

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