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How to Read CRP Test Report

CRP Test:

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein made by liver in response to inflammation in the body. The C-reactive protein test or CRP test measures the amount of this protein in the blood. The levels of CRP increase when there is inflammation, infection, or major tissue injury. It also detects severity of inflammation caused by acute or chronic conditions.

Factors involved to understand the normal range of C-reactive protein (CRP) levels:

  1. What is the normal range of CRP in blood?
  2. What do high levels of CRP mean?
  3. Symptoms of high CRP levels
  4. What do low CRP levels mean?
  5. Causes of high CRP levels
  6. Precautions to be taken to maintain normal CRP levels
  7. Are there any risk factors associated with this test?
  8. What other tests are ordered along with CRP test?

What is the normal range of CRP in blood?

Normal range of CRP in blood is below 3.0 mg/L of blood.

What do high levels of CRP mean?

Higher than normal levels of CRP in blood indicates inflammation in the body. A result between 1-2.9 mg/L indicates moderate risk of cardiovascular disease. A result high than 3 mg/L indicates high risk of cardiovascular disease. And a reading of more than 10 mg/L indicates a need for further testing to determine the cause of severe inflammation.

Extremely high readings may indicate:

  • Acute coronary disease, such as heart attack (acute myocardial infarction)
  • Bone infection
  • Autoimmune arthritis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lupus or other autoimmune disorder
  • Cancer
  • Pneumonia or other similar severe infection

People taking birth control pills may also have elevated CRP levels. High CRP levels can also indicate inflammation in the arteries of the heart, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack.

Symptoms of high CRP levels

The symptoms of high CRP levels depend upon the underlying reason for the inflammation in the body. Patients with severe infections, inflammation, tissue injuries, or chronic conditions, often experience similar symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

  • Unexplained exhaustion
  • Long term pain
  • Muscle stiffness and weakness
  • Low grade fever
  • Chills and tremors
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Unexplained weight loss

Patients with high CRP levels are more likely to suffer from acute bacterial infections and may show symptoms such as high fever, rapid heart rate, chills and shaking, persistent vomiting and diarrhoea, breathlessness, dizziness, body ache, and constant headaches.

What do low CRP levels mean?

Low CRP levels indicate there is less inflammation in the body. Normally, CRP levels are low in healthy individuals.

Causes of high CRP levels

A high level of CRP in the blood indicates there is inflammation in the body. It can be due to infection or conditions such as:

  • Autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or infectious arthritis, lupus, certain forms of inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Pericarditis
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Organ or tissue injury
  • In some cases of cancer

People at risk for cardiovascular disease should have a C-Reactive protein test done annually.

Precautions to be taken to maintain normal CRP levels

A variety of factors such as diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, obesity, etc. can cause an increase in the CRP levels. Certain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDS), aspirin, and steroids, can result in lower than normal levels of CRP.

Regular exercise, healthy and appropriate diet, and quitting smoking, can decrease the risk of certain diseases which in turn can prevent elevation of CRP levels. Certain cholesterol lowering medications have also been linked to decrease CRP levels in patients with high cholesterol.

Avoiding processed foods, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, anti-inflammatory protein sources such as fish and other sea food, vitamin C supplements, etc. can also help in maintaining normal CRP levels.

Are there any risk factors associated with this test?

Since CRP test is a routine and simple blood test, there is no significant risk associated with it. However, in some cases, there might be complications such as:

  • Excessive bleeding at the site of puncture
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Bruising or infection

What other tests are ordered along with CRP test?

Since results of CRP test indicate only the presence of inflammation and not the cause of it, more tests along with CRP test are often ordered. These include Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test, Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test, Rheumatoid factor (RF) test, and Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (ACCP) test.

A high-sensitivity CRP test, called hs-CRP test, is used to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease. To confirm the risks, the healthcare provider may order one of the following tests along with hs-CRP test such as Electrocardiogram (ECG), Echocardiogram, Stress test, CT scan of the coronary arteries, and heart catheterization.

CRP test is carried out to measure the levels of this protein in the body. Elevated levels may point to an infection or inflammatory condition or a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Various factors can cause moderately elevated levels of CRP, but very high levels are usually indicative of a serious problem. The treatment for elevated levels depend upon the cause of elevation.

There is no special preparation required for the test, but you may be advised to let your health care provider know about the medications, herbs, or supplements that you are taking. You should be healthy during the sample collection as any recent injury, inflammation, illness, or infection can interfere with the results of the test.