The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) is a relatively simple, inexpensive, non-specific test that has been used for many years to help detect inflammation associated with conditions such as infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases. This test doesn’t diagnose one specific condition. Instead, it helps your doctor determine whether you’re experiencing inflammation. The doctor will look at ESR results along with other information or test results to help figure out a diagnosis.
If your results are not in the normal range, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a medical condition that requires treatment. A moderate ESR may indicate pregnancy, menstruation, or anemia, rather than an inflammatory disease. Certain medicines and supplements can also affect your results. These include oral contraceptives, aspirin, cortisone, and vitamin A. Be sure to tell your health care provider about any drugs or supplements you are taking.
Sometimes the ESR can be slower than normal. A slow ESR may indicate a blood disorder, such as:
- Sickle cell anemia
- Leukocytosis, an abnormal increase in white blood cells
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If your ESR is high, it may be related to an inflammatory condition, such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Rheumatic fever
- Vascular disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Certain cancers
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