What Does an ESR Test Look For?

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When older adults go to the doctor, they may be subjected to all sorts of tests. One test you may hear the doctor mention is an ESR test. ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate. You might also hear the test called a “sed rate” test. It’s a kind of blood test used as an indicator for many different health problems. Understanding the test can take some of the mystery out of your aging relative’s next doctor appointment.

How Does an ESR Test Work?

An ESR test measures the length of time it takes for red blood cells, called erythrocytes, to settle to the bottom of a test tube. The process of the blood cells drifting to the bottom of the test tube is called sedimentation.

To perform the test, a bit of blood will be drawn from the older adult. The blood is then transferred into a test tube. As the red blood cells settle to the bottom of the tube, a clear yellowish liquid will be left at the top. The clear liquid is plasma. The test results are determined by how much plasma is at the top of the tube after one hour.

What is the Test Used For?

Homecare in Fairfax VA: What Does an ESR Test Look For?
Homecare in Fairfax VA: What Does an ESR Test Look For?

When a person has an inflammatory condition, their blood cells settle more quickly. That’s because the inflammation increases the amount of protein in the blood, making blood cells stick together more easily, which causes them to drift to the bottom faster. Typically, doctors order an ESR test when a person is having symptoms like headaches, joint stiffness, loss of appetite, or unintentional weight loss.

The test isn’t used to look for one specific condition. The results help doctors to look for many health conditions, depending on the ESR rate.

Low ESR levels may indicate:

  • Leukemia.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Increased blood thickness.
  • High white blood cell count.

ESR levels that fall into the “moderately elevated” range may indicate:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Anemia.
  • Thyroid disease.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Bone or heart infection.
  • Lymphoma.
  • Systemic infection.

High ESR levels may indicate:

  • Cancer in the plasma cells.
  • A kind of white blood cell cancer called Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia.
  • An allergic reaction that causes blood vessels to be inflamed.

If the ESR test leads to your aging relative being diagnosed with a medical condition, home care can help. Home care providers can offer the older adult transportation to and from follow-up medical appointments. They can also remind the senior to take medications the doctor prescribes. Home care providers can also be a source of moral support and companionship that helps the senior to keep their mind off their medical condition.



If you or an aging loved one are considering homecare in Fairfax, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.