Series In Lab Values: CRP (C-reactive Protein)

As patients living with a lifelong illness, sometimes it’s up to us to research what all the acronyms for each of the blood tests taken and what those values actually mean. In this series, we will delve a little deeper into the meaning of each lab value and why it may be routinely (or not so routinely) ordered for you.

You’ll notice often times that orders for a CRP are ordered, among others. So what is a CRP & what does it measure?

What CRP means

First off, let’s break down what CRP means. CRP is shortened for C-reactive Protein. In short, it measures the level of inflammation throughout your entire body. Produced in the liver, a group of proteins called acute phase reactants go up, in response to your body’s inflammation. The level of these inflammatory proteins is referred to as Cytokines, which are produced by your white blood cells when your body begins to tell itself “inflammation is happening”.

This blood test is performed to find out if there is an increase in inflammation throughout your body. But herein lies the kicker: it can’t pinpoint exactly where your inflammation is taking place throughout your body. So, it’s a great indicator if something is going wrong, but doctors will often need more tests, often an ESR, to establish what to do with this result of inflammation.

For many people living with an inflammatory condition like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, a CRP becomes a normal test to see if your inflammation level is within range of your norm. Many other people living with illnesses like RA, Lupus, Cancer and many more will have this routinely done. Unfortunately, sometimes a CRP level may come back in the normal range and there may be inflammation. This may be seen in RA and Lupus.

It’s important to note during the last half of a woman’s pregnancy, the CRP may be increased. Results can also be increased with the use of oral contraceptives.

Inflammation markers

So what happens when you have inflammation markers? Some patients results may come back as elevated each time the lab is drawn, to some extent. For people living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, it may mean inflammation in many places of the body, outside of the gut. In Crohn’s Disease, there are many extra-intestinal manifestations, involving eyes, skin, esophagus, etc. Your doctor will likely order more labs and maybe even some imaging if the lab values come back as very high, to rule out infections. It’s important to know that something as simple as an infection can have an impact on these results.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series of how to break down your lab results!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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