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Decoding ESR Test: What Your Results Could Reveal About Your Health

Dr Rishika Agarwal 3571 Views
Updated: 30 Nov 2023
Published: 26 May 2023
Decoding ESR Test

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) Test monitors how rapidly red blood cells sink to the bottom of a tube. In an inflammatory condition, the red blood cells settle more quickly than normal. The test speed may indicate the level of inflammation in your body.

More inflammation is indicated by higher ESR levels, however, an ESR test alone cannot determine the exact illness causing the inflammation.

Why do you need an ESR?

Your doctor may suggest an ESR test if you have inflammatory symptoms as a result of some infection. Depending on the underlying condition, you can also encounter other symptoms like anaemia, undiagnosed fever, headaches, joint stiffness or others.

Preparation for ESR Test

There is normally no special preparation needed for the ESR test. However, in some cases, you may be asked to fast for a few hours. For other specific instructions if any, your healthcare provider will inform you.

How does the ESR test work?

For the ESR test, a blood sample is collected from a vein in your arm using a needle. During the procedure, a little amount of blood will be drawn and placed in a test tube for analysis. You can experience a mild pinch or pain while the needle is inserted. The process is completed usually in less than five minutes.

High ESR are of 2 types

What do your ESR results denote?

The ESR test can be used to identify bodily inflammation, but it cannot diagnose an illness on its own. Your doctor will examine the results of the ESR test along with your symptoms, medical history, and results of further tests when making a diagnosis.

A High ESR

Numerous inflammatory illnesses and conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, arteritis, systemic vasculitis, polymyalgia rheumatica, kidney disease, infection, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases, as well as some cancers, can result in high ESR test result. The female high ESR symptoms may be visible during pregnancy or as they age.


The red blood cells have settled more slowly than expected if the ESR test result  is low. This could be caused by various health conditions, like polycythemia, sickle cell disease (SCD), leukocytosis, heart failure, kidney issues and liver problems.

An abnormal ESR result usually doesn't indicate a condition that requires medical attention. Pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, ageing, obesity, regular alcohol consumption, and exercise can also be some of the factors that affect ESR readings.

Furthermore, several medications and dietary supplements may also affect ESR results. So, if you are on certain medications or nutritional supplements, inform your doctor before the test is performed.

Risks and Limitations of the ESR Test

No risk factors are associated with the ESR test, besides, it has few negative effects. You might suffer some minor bruising or soreness where the needle is inserted, but these symptoms normally alleviate soon.

Your doctor may order further tests concurrently because the ESR test range cannot make a definite diagnosis. Furthermore, a normal ESR reading could indicate an underlying inflammatory illness. So, in order to gather more detailed data, a C-reactive protein (CRP) test is typically performed with an ESR.

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