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C-Reactive Protein Test: A Simple Way to Determine Inflammation

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How do you know if inflammation is present in your body? A C-Reactive Protein Test can shed some light. Cooper Clinic Preventive Medicine Physician Emily Hebert, MD, explains the C-Reactive Protein Test and why doctors may order this test.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein produced by the liver. It is a marker of inflammation in the body. If a test for CRP returns elevated, it is an indicator of inflammation in the body, but elevated CRP does not indicate why there is inflammation in the body.

Inflammation indicated by elevated CRP levels may be attributed to an infection or autoimmune disease. In some cases, an explanation for the elevated CRP levels is never found.

A CRP test is a simple blood draw. Most primary care physicians will not perform this test unless it is requested. At Cooper Clinic our doctors check for CRP as a part of routine annual preventive exams because there is evidence to suggest that elevated CRP may also be a marker of cardiovascular disease.

The CRP test is used to assess cardiac risk factors. For example, if a patient has high cholesterol levels, a family history of heart disease and elevated levels of the protein, our physicians may use the test to determine if the patient should be prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medicine rather than simple lifestyle changes to treat cholesterol. It is unknown if C-reactive protein is a cause of cardiovascular disease, or is a sign or symptom of heart disease.

It is important to note that the CRP test is not a specific, diagnostic test, but rather a general test to check for inflammation in the body. In some cases, doctors will order the test to check for flare-ups of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and osteomyelitis, a bone infection caused by bacteria.

Certain medications can also contribute to inflammation.  For example, during the last half of pregnancy, or if a patient is using birth control pills, a CRP test will likely show elevated levels of the protein.

It is also important to understand that a normal or low CRP test result doesn’t mean the body is free of inflammation, nor does it rule out conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Though the exact reason is unknown, some patients with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus will not have elevated levels of CRP.

If your CRP test results show elevated levels of the protein, but you have no other symptoms or risk factors associated with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or heart disease, your doctor may not order any additional tests or prescribe any treatments. If you have any questions about your test results, ask your physician.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.