|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Dear Eva, ESR stands for erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Basically it is the time it takes red blood cells (erythrocytes) to settle out of blood plasma. ESR increases if the number (or concentration) of proteins in your blood plasma goes up, thus increasing the viscosity. The more viscous a liquid (plasma) the slower a cell (erythrocyte) takes to settle. Certain disease states produce higher amounts of plasma proteins. There are many reasons that bring about a rise in ESR, cancer is one possibility but so are long- term bacterial or viral infections as well as rheumatic diseases. ESR is a valuable screening tool but it is not specifically diagnostic, because there are so many things that can cause such a general change in blood plasma. More tests, specific to each of the possible explanations for a rise in ESR will undoubtedly have to be undertaken before a diagnosis can be made.
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