Inflammation values in blood

What are the inflammation levels and what do they mean?

The terms inflammation values or inflammation parameters are collective terms for various laboratory values which can be measured in the blood at an elevated level in the case of various diseases, but above all inflammatory processes. Accordingly, they play a major role in suspected pathological processes in clinical and outpatient medical routine. They are important in the diagnosis as well as in the monitoring of disease progression.

However, an exact diagnosis from individual or grouped altered inflammation values (whether increased or decreased) is difficult or hardly possible, precisely because they are altered in so many diseases. The human blood is composed of a variety of components. In addition to red blood cells (erythrocytes) and a large proportion of water, these include various proteins and white blood cells (leukocytes), which can serve as markers for inflammatory and other pathological processes in blood laboratory diagnostics.

The classic inflammation parameters are, among others, the C-reactive protein (which is an important part of the immune system), the procalcitonin (a prohormone) and the interleukins (a group of messenger substances that control the activity of defence cells). Other inflammation parameters are the number of white blood cells (the leukocyte count) and their exact distribution in the differential blood count, as well as the blood sedimentation rate. The latter, as the name suggests, is a comparatively simple test in which it is observed how far the solid components of the blood sink within a specified time.

It is helpful in that a high level of antibodies in the blood increases the blood sedimentation rate, as this leads to a cross-linking of the red blood cells, so that they sink faster. As already mentioned, if these values are altered, they can provide valuable information about pathological processes and their temporal course. However, a change in these values alone, without looking at the signs of the disease or carrying out further diagnostics, makes it almost impossible to make a statement about the cause of the change or possible diseases.

For example, abnormal inflammation values can indicate simple inflammation caused by flu-like infections or inflammation of the urinary tract or abdominal organs, as well as autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases or even tumor diseases. In reality, however, the inflammation parameters can be strongly influenced by a variety of factors. These include, among others, the intake of certain medications, the practice of competitive sports or even pregnancy. In some cases, the inflammation values are even altered without any indication of a disease value.