Inflammation is a normal immune system response that functions to protect the body from infection and diseases. During inflammation, white blood cells and other body chemicals attempt to remove any potentially harmful substances from the body. While inflammation is part of the healing process of wounds and infections, inflammation can also indicate an underlying disorder. Elevated blood levels of a protein called C-reactive protein indicate inflammation.
C-reactive protein, or CRP, is classified as an acute phase reactant, which means that it increases or decreases soon after tissue inflammation or injury. CRP is made in the liver and secreted into the bloodstream within a few hours following inflammation. The level of CRP in your blood can be tested through blood screenings. High levels of CRP in your blood indicate that inflammation is present.
A normal CRP generally falls between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/dL. If your CRP level exceeds 3.0 mg/dL, it is classified as high. MayoClinic.com notes that a CRP level of 10.0 mg/dL or higher indicates severe and serious inflammation and should be considered a serious cause for concern.
If your CRP level is high, further laboratory testing is necessary to isolate the cause.
Causes of Elevated Protein Levels
CRP levels increase when there is some degree of inflammation in the body. Positive CRP results may indicate cancer, infection, inflammatory bowel disease, pelvic inflammatory disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, connective tissue disease and pneumonia. CRP levels also rise immediately following a heart attack. Because of this, CRP testing is often done to diagnose mild heart attacks.
Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy can also cause an increase in CRP levels, so if you are taking these medications, make sure to inform your doctor to avoid inaccurate test results.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, high levels of CRP in the blood can indicate chronic inflammation of the blood vessels. In this case, increased CRP is correlated with increased risk of heart attack or heart disease.
In the Harvard Women's Health Study, women with high CRP levels were 4 times more likely to die of coronary artery disease or suffer from a heart attack or stroke than women with lower CRP levels.