What is C-reactive protein?

C-reactive proteins (CRP) are one of the plasma proteins known as acute phase proteins. These are proteins in which the plasma concentrations increases or decreases by 25% or more during inflammatory disorders. C-reactive protein is a glycoprotein that is normally present in the blood, it is produced by the liver in response to inflammatory processes (and then released by the liver), such as the likes of an infection, trauma, injury, surgery, burns, and advanced cancer. C-reactive protein disappears from the body when it overcomes the acute phase of inflammation. Moderate changes of the C – reactive protein appear in the body after excessive, childbirth and heatstroke. However small changes occur after psychological stress and in several psychiatric illnesses.

C-reactive protein is a sign of inflammation in the walls of arteries. Studies show that reducing the inflammation by lowering CRP levels with a class of drugs known as statins significantly lowers the rate of heart attacks and coronary-artery disease in people with acute heart disease. Patients with moderate or high levels of CRP can usually reduce the levels of CRP with lifestyle changes, such as quitting tobacco consumption, engaging in regular exercise, taking in healthy nutrition, taking a multivitamin daily, replacing saturated fats such as butter with monounsaturated fats (particularly olive oil), increasing intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, losing weight if overweight, and increasing fiber intake.


Why measure the level of C-reactive protein?

Measuring the levels of C-reactive protein within a patient will allow signs of important indicators of inflammation to appear, as CRP is the first to increase as a result of an inflammatory process in the body. There is an association between the elevated levels of inflammatory markers (including CRP) and the future development of heart disease. This correlation applies even to healthy males and females who have normal cholesterol levels. CRP level can be used by doctors as part of the assessment of a patient's risk for heart disease because it is a stable molecule and can be easily measured with a simple blood test.

CRP is also used to check for infection after a surgical procedure. CRP levels normally rise within 2 to 6 hours of the surgery, however if the level CRP stays elevated 3 days after the surgery, then an infection might be present. It is also used to identify and monitor the following, cancer of the lymph nodes, disease of the immune system, painful swelling of the blood vessels in the head and neck, infection of a bone, and to check how well a treatment is working for cancer or an infection.


Standard of preparation

Sampling is usually done in the morning in the hospital. There are no special preparations needed for this test. The doctor will advise and recommend if you need to be fasting prior to the blood examination. You should inform your doctor of any medication you are taking prior to the exam, as some medical treatments may interfere with the blood results.


Is the examination painful or dangerous?

The examination is neither painful nor dangerous. The patient may feel a tingling sensation with the entrance of the needle in the arm when blood is being extracted for examination.


How is the exam performed?

The exam consists of a simple blood sample test.