High Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate: Symptoms And Treatment

An erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) helps your physician establish whether you are having any kind of inflammation in the body. Your health care provider will look at your ESR value along with other investigation results to make a diagnosis. The investigations to be done depend upon the symptoms.

Your blood will be collected in a tall, thin tube. The speed at which the RBCs fall to the base of the tube is calculated. In case of an inflammation, abnormal proteins appear in the blood. These proteins cause the RBCs to cluster together and make them fall more rapidly.

The following are normal ESR results:

  • Females below 50 years of age should have an ESR below 20 mm/hr.
  • Males below 50 years should have an ESR below 15 mm/hr.
  • Females over 50 years must have an ESR below 30 mm/hr.
  • Males over 50 years must have an ESR below 20 mm/hr.
  • Newborns must have an ESR below 2 mm/hr.
  • Children who haven’t reached puberty should have an ESR 3 – 13 mm/hr.

Causes Of High Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate

Common conditions associated with high ESR are:

  • Anemia
  • Old age
  • Arthritis
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Kidney  disorders
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia

High ESR results are also linked to certain autoimmune disorders, such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Polymyalgia  rheumatica
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Primary macroglobulinemia
  • Hyperfibrinogenemia

Infections which cause high ESR results are:

  • Bone infection
  • Skin infection
  • Heart and heart valve infection
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Systemic infection
  • Tuberculosis

Symptoms Of High Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate

  • The symptoms depend up on what is the causative factor for the high level of ESR.
    Based on whether it is an infection or an autoimmune disorder, the clinical picture manifests.
  • Joint pains are seen in arthritis and infections. Inflammatory arthritis triggering high levels of ESR are – rheumatoid arthritis, gout and systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Rash develops with some infections and autoimmune conditions.
  • Headache is very non-specific symptom and is associated with elevated ESR. Infections cause a headache and a high ESR. Viral infections have been linked to headache. More serious infections like bacterial meningitis which is life threatening can also trigger a headache. Headache can also be associated with inflammatory conditions like lupus.
  • Sore throat is a very common symptom and usually due to infection; most types of infection cause high ESR.
  • Exhaustion and malaise are always seen with conditions which cause a high ESR.

Treatment For High Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate

Once the accurate diagnosis is made, your health care provider will decide on your line of treatment and medications.

  • Along with medicines, certain foods help manage the condition better. Foods which help decrease inflammation are fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon. Olive oil is loaded with polyphenols, which decreases or prevents inflammation significantly. Steer clear of foods which contain lots of saturated fats and trans fats. Also, avoid refined sugars since they aggravate the inflammation.
  • Once, your treatment regimen and diet have been started, you need to go for regular follow ups with the doctor as well as get your ESR assessed.