Of course when they called and told me my blood work was back and everything was okay except I had a high SED rate, I had no idea what that could mean and they did not explain it to me either. Thank goodness for WebMD.com (maybe), where I got an explanation even if it wasn’t exactly promising.
The sedimentation rate (sed rate) blood test measures how quickly red blood cells (erythrocytes) settle in a test tube in one hour. The more red cells that fall to the bottom of the test tube in one hour, the higher the sed rate.
When inflammation is present in the body, certain proteins cause red blood cells to stick together and fall more quickly than normal to the bottom of the tube. These proteins are produced by the liver and the immune system under many abnormal conditions, such as an infection, an autoimmune disease, or cancer.
There are many possible causes of a high sedimentation rate. For this reason, a sed rate is done with other tests to confirm a diagnosis. After a diagnosis has been made, a sed rate can be done to help check on the disease or see how well treatment is working.
Why It Is Done
A sedimentation rate (sed rate) test is done to:
* Find out if inflammation is present.
* Check on the progress of a disease.
* See how well a treatment is working.
High sedimentation rates may be caused by:
- Autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Cancer, such as lymphoma or multiple myeloma.
- Chronic kidney disease.
- Infection, such as pneumonia, pelvic inflammatory disease, or appendicitis.
- Inflammation of joints (such as polymyalgia rheumatica) and blood vessels (such as giant cell arteritis).
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland (Graves’ disease).
- Kidney, bone, joint, skin, or heart valve infections.
- Pregnancy and preeclampsia (toxemia of pregnancy).
- Viral infections.
And their definition of autoimmune wasn’t very promising either….
The immune system is the body’s defense against foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses, that may be harmful. An autoimmune disease is an abnormal condition that occurs when a person’s immune system attacks its own tissues as though they were foreign substances.
* Normally, when a foreign substance enters the body, the immune system creates special cells to attack and destroy the foreign substance. These cells include antibodies and white blood cells (lymphocytes).
* In a person with an autoimmune disease, the immune system recognizes some of the person’s own tissues as foreign substances. The body makes antibodies and other cells that attack and destroy these tissues. This process often leads to inflammation and eventually, if it continues, scarring and destruction of the organs that are made up of those tissues.
Why the body attacks its own cells is not known. Autoimmune diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and Sjogren’s syndrome. Certain types of diabetes and thyroid disease are related to autoimmune reactions. People who have autoimmune diseases are at an increased risk for infections.