What is CRP?
CRP is C-reactive protein, a protein found in the body that reacts to inflammatory response. Called a complement protein, CRP and other proteins like it respond to tissue damage. When there is an injury anywhere in the body, these proteins and other aggregates of the inflammatory causeway react to help repair it. This quick reaction to tissue damage and inflammation is part of our immune response.
Reactions to Inflammation
Because of how it responds, CRP levels are understandably elevated after surgery or accidental physical trauma. Vascular events that leave tissue without oxygen, such as heart attacks or strokes, can also affect CRP levels. It is often after myocardial infarction or heart attack, that CRP levels are often watched, along with other blood tests to prevent another episode.
CRP & Infection
CRP levels will also be elevated when people are actively fighting infections, such as appendicitis, influenza, or pneumonia. CRP levels, along with white blood cell counts, can help determine if a treatment is effective at eliminating the infection.
Autoimmunity and CRP
Autoimmune disorders are diseases where the body’s immune system begins to target its own cells. Some examples of autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, lupus, and hypothyroidism in some cases. In addition to physical symptoms of pain and fever, autoimmune diseases will increase the inflammatory response. In many cases, C-reactive protein levels will be evaluated by doctors, again, with other tests, to help determine the severity or progression of the disease or episode.
CRP & Heart
Since CRP is elevated after heart attack, most doctors will follow its levels in patients after coronary events. Initial CRP levels over 2.4 mg/dL are considered at risk for coronary events. It is desirable to have CRP levels less than 1.0 mg/dL. Statin drugs treated for hyperlipidemia reduce CRP levels, another reason to keep at risk patients on these drugs. It is apparent that patients who consistently have higher CRP levels are more likely to have hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
CRP levels may be elevated in some cancers and is often very high during acute or chronic kidney failure. Alone, a CRP blood test doesn’t diagnose a single disease, but can be significant in the presence of other symptoms.
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