Healthcare provider explaining to patient what blood test shows inflammation

What blood test shows inflammation?

Medically reviewed on April 4, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, MS, RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Inflammation can occur in our bodies for several reasons. Injuries, chemicals, and pathogens—like bacteria, fungi, and viruses—often trigger short-term immune responses that cause redness, swelling, and pain. [1]

However, certain diseases and medical conditions can have the same effect and may even lead to chronic pain, fatigue, and/or weight gain. [2]

Unfortunately, there are very few effective lab tests that can assess chronic inflammation. [2] However, those with acute inflammation, resulting from infections, vitamin D deficiencies, or injuries, can often use lab tests to assess inflammation within their bodies. [2]

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s first response to foreign invaders or injury. [3] When you experience something like a cut, immune cells—such as pro-inflammatory cytokines—rush to the wounded area to help initiate healing. [3]

As a result, the area often becomes swollen, red, or warm to the touch.

Vitamin D plays a key role in facilitating this immune response and expediting both acute and chronic inflammation. [4] More specifically, it regulates the production of cytokines and other pro-inflammatory cells to accelerate the healing process. [4]

It was also found that vitamin D deficiency is often associated with chronic inflammatory diseases like [4]:

  • Kidney disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Asthma

But what is chronic inflammation, exactly? Chronic inflammation refers to a long-term inflammatory response that can last several months or years. [2] In these cases, the body is unable to curtail inflammation—often as a result of the immune system constantly defending the body against infection, disease, or other condition like an autoimmune disorder or diabetes. [2]

The relationship between highly-sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and inflammation

The liver excretes a protein known as ‘highly-sensitive C-reactive protein’ (hs-CRP). When there are high levels of inflammation in the body, blood tests can detect higher levels of hs-CRP. [5]

As such, elevated hs-CRP levels often indicate a cardiovascular event or infection. [5]

Additionally, those with lower levels of vitamin D may see higher levels of hs-CRP. [6]

Can blood tests assess inflammation in the body?

There are several types of blood tests that you can order to check for markers of inflammation, such as vitamin D and hs-CRP, among others. Test results can help guide treatment plans to reduce inflammation and improve lifestyle behaviors that may be affecting your overall health.

What blood test shows inflammation? Let’s look:

  • High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) blood test – This type of test checks for hs-CRP levels in your body. Elevated results can indicate a higher risk of coronary artery disease, which may lead to a heart attack. [7] High levels of hs-CRP may also point toward rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or a recent illness.
  • Vitamin D blood test – A blood test that assesses vitamin D levels may also indicate acute inflammation in the body, if the levels are elevated.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – This type of test observes how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a tube. Quickly moving red blood cells often indicate higher levels of inflammation. [8]
  • Complete blood count (CBC) test – The complete blood count or CBC test is one that’s most often ordered by healthcare providers as it provides a comprehensive look into your complete blood makeup. It can indicate various conditions, including inflammation, anemia, and/or infection. That’s because it measures infection-fighting white blood cell levels, in addition to red blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelets. [9]
  • Interleukin-6 (IL-6) blood test – IL-6 is a type of pro-inflammatory cytokine that the immune system directs to areas of your body that need healing. As such, it plays a role in both acute and chronic inflammation. While this type of blood test is rare, healthcare providers will order an IL-6 blood test in conjunction with a hs-CRP test if you have a history of inflammation or if they wish to assess your risk for diabetes, stroke, or heart disease. [10]
  • Ferritin blood test – When an infection occurs in the body, this iron-packed protein will increase in the blood to prevent pathogens from accessing the body’s storage of iron. Like hs-CRP, high ferritin levels can be associated with a chronic inflammatory disease. As such, this type of test may indicate chronic inflammation. [11]
  • Fibrinogen blood test – Similar to ferritin, fibrinogen is a type of protein. It helps form blood clots and heal damaged tissue, and levels may increase in response to acute inflammation. That said, it may also play a role in chronic inflammatory conditions, such as gum disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. While a healthcare provider doesn’t use this test to directly test for inflammation, it may indicate inflammation inadvertently. [12]
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-α) blood test – Like IL-6, TNF-α is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that triggers the body’s immune response. They’re early responders and can indicate infection, trauma, or toxin exposure as well as diabetes and/or heart disease. That said, this type of blood test is still being developed and is currently only being used in research settings. [13]

Assess your inflammation from home with Everlywell

While inflammation is your body’s natural response to foreign invaders, viral or bacterial infection, and injury, it may also indicate more serious issues, such as an autoimmune disorder, diabetes, or heart disease.

Fortunately, there are several blood tests that can assess for biomarkers of inflammation, such as hs-CRP, vitamin D, and IL-6. While inflammation-indicating blood tests are not routine in most healthcare facilities, they can assess your overall health and wellness, particularly for those with a history of inflammation. [8]

At Everlywell, we provide a Vitamin D & Inflammation Test that assesses your blood for vitamin D levels and markers of acute inflammation to help you stay on top of your health. You’ll receive your healthcare provider-reviewed results from a CLIA-certified lab that allows you to plan your next steps with confidence. Interested in examining your vitamin D levels from the comfort of your home? Consider our vitamin D home test kit and experience the convenience of testing from home.

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  1. Information NC for B, Pike USNL of M 8600 R, MD B, Usa 20894. What Is an Inflammation? Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2018.
  2. Pahwa R, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. Published June 4, 2019. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  3. Muire PJ, Mangum LH, Wenke JC. Time Course of Immune Response and Immunomodulation During Normal and Delayed Healing of Musculoskeletal Wounds. Frontiers in Immunology. 2020;11. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2020.01056
  4. Yin K, Agrawal DK. Vitamin D and inflammatory diseases. Journal of Inflammation Research. 2014;7:69-87. doi:10.2147/JIR.S63898
  5. Sproston NR, Ashworth JJ. Role of C-Reactive Protein at Sites of Inflammation and Infection. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018;9(754). doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.00754
  6. Zhou A, Hyppönen E. Vitamin D deficiency and C-reactive protein: a bidirectional Mendelian randomization study. International Journal of Epidemiology. doi:10.1093/ije/dyac087
  7. C-reactive protein test. Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  8. MD RHS. Should you be tested for inflammation? Harvard Health. Published March 29, 2022. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  9. Complete blood count (CBC). Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  10. Germolec DR, Frawley RP, Evans E. Markers of inflammation. Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, NJ). 2010;598:53-73. doi:10.1007/978-1-60761-401-2_5
  11. Wang W, Knovich MA, Coffman LG, Torti FM, Torti SV. Serum ferritin: Past, present and future. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects. 2010;1800(8):760-769. doi:10.1016/j.bbagen.2010.03.011
  12. Davalos D, Akassoglou K. Fibrinogen as a key regulator of inflammation in disease. Seminars in Immunopathology. 2011;34(1):43-62. doi:10.1007/s00281-011-0290-8
  13. Popa C, Netea MG, Riel PLCM van, Meer JWM van der, Stalenhoef AFH. The role of TNF-α in chronic inflammatory conditions, intermediary metabolism, and cardiovascular risk. Journal of Lipid Research. 2007;48(4):751-762. doi:10.1194/jlr.R600021-JLR200
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