Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

Last Updated: October 13, 2018

Definition - What does Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) mean?

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is a medical test that proportionately measures the time that composite red blood cells settle to the bottom of a tube or vial serving as a baseline indicator for the absence or presence of inflammation. Depending on the test findings, a fast or slow ESR assessment can help determine, in concert with auxiliary testing methods, if a patient is a candidate for inflammatory diseases, blood disorders, and/or immune system conditions.

WorkplaceTesting explains Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

Many people with high ESR levels tend to experience persistent inflammation issues, linked to a number of health conditions including anemia, arthritis, lung cancer, myocardial infarction (heart attack), pneumonia, stroke, and tuberculosis. Conversely, slow ESR feedback can be attributed to different pathological conditions, for instance, sickle cell anemia and leukocytosis (excess white blood cell count). Inflammation is a normal physiological process that happens if an infection or injury occurs, triggering the immune system to respond by delivering red and white blood cells to the affected site to neutralize spread of invading antigens in the body.

Cortisol is an essential hormone secreted that helps to control the inflammatory response, but evidence suggests that stress can aggravate inflammation causing counterproductive effects. Psychological stress hinders the ability of cortisol to limit the release of immune cells to a diseased area or injured part, resulting in excessive inflammation and, in turn, leading to major health conditions. In the workplace, job stress can contribute to decreased morale and hampered productivity placing financial constraints on employers. Individual and organizational strategies can be implemented to curb perceived stressors, for example, adopting a healthy diet, introducing employee assistance programs (EAP), and fostering psychological counseling/therapy.

While ESR is not a conclusive marker for diagnosing a specific health condition, people experiencing common symptoms including decreased appetite, fever episodes, frequent headaches, and weight loss can benefit from its use in narrowing down potential inflammatory diseases.

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