Last Updated on February 12, 2020
If you go to a doctor, there’s different ways that many medical doctors will work, but generally they will do a blood test. They’ll do a preliminary blood test first. Even if you go to a doctor saying, “Look, I’ve got all the signs and symptoms of lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, or an autoimmune disease.” He or she, your doctor, is not going to say, “Okay. Well, let’s test for that.”
What the GP is going to do … they’re going to do a broad spectrum of basic tests to begin with to see what’s wrong. These tests could involve a whole bunch of different types of parameters. Generally, this sort of probing tests to see what’s going on in the body. Then these tests will lead to further tests, of course, because they’re going to refine things down. But these are the basic tests here. Just a few of them I’ve written down here … a few that I commonly see people getting regularly for autoimmune disease. So, I’ll explain a bit about them.
Probably one of the more common ones is ESR, erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Red blood … as you know, when you cut yourself, not long after you have it cut, the blood will start clotting. It will start sort of forming a sediment, and it will dry up, and then the wound will heal. When we look at that … at the ability of blood to clot in a test tube, we can see that there’s something going on with the blood. There’s some type of inflammation going on there. There’s some type of healing response. It’ll give the doctor an idea that something’s wrong with the body, but not specifically what area the problem really is.
This is an inflammatory marker, a nonspecific inflammatory marker. ESR really depends on age, gender, the health of your red blood cells. Lots of factors will account for ESR, and how fast or slow the blood will clot. It’s not a super reliable marker in terms of autoimmunity, but it will give the doctors some idea what’s going on with your body. It’s not diagnostic of autoimmune, but it’s diagnostic of some type of a problem in the body. Some inflammation. It certainly lags behind treatment as well, meaning … so, when you get treatment for the inflammation, if the inflammation goes down, the ESR may not go down at the same rate as the inflammation. It’s a great opening test to do for someone, not one that you would regularly do as you’re following the progress of treatment.
This ESR needs to be basically processed within hours, because it’s a very time sensitive test. That’s a good opening one to do. Now, if they’ve completed ESR, for example, and they’ve looked at a whole blood panel of red cells, white cells, everything, and they’ve seen the ESR’s elevated, they may go further, and then start looking at something called the C-reactive protein or CRP.
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CRP has been around for a while. And more recently, CRPHS, or the high sensitivity C reactive protein … which is good for monitoring cardiac inflammation. CRP is a more reliable marker for inflammation, and it’s basically under the control of cytokines or chemicals produced by the white blood cells … which themselves are responsible for inflammation. These are tumor necrosis one, tumor necrosis six … Sorry. Interleukin one, interleukin six, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. TNF alpha. That’s right. So, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF alpha.
Those cytokines … or immune proteins, basically, they can help to ramp up or ramp down the production very quickly of C-reactive protein. It’s a stable marker. This is often a good one to see how well the treatment is going in terms of how successful it is, whether it’s natural treatment or pharmaceutical treatment. We can see if the marker is going up or down, how reliable the treatment’s going to be in terms of giving you what you’re looking for. So, that’s a C-reactive protein.
The other marker that we sometimes look at is ferritin, which is an iron storage protein. Especially I do this one a lot with a blood disease called hemochromatosis, but it also is done with certain types of arthritis and tests like that. Again, ferritin … which is a storage protein of iron, depends a lot on the iron. The serum iron but also, again, those three chemicals we mentioned. Interleukin one, interleukin six, tumor necrosis factor alpha. Those three, again, inflammatory mediators are affected by … they will affect ferritin itself. So, this is a reliable marker and can show you kidney damage, or liver damage, or many other issues going on there.
Probably the most popular one would be the ESR followed by CRP. And then there’s also anti-nuclear antibody, which is another one that’s done. They’re particularly diagnostic of lupus, SLE, or lupus. Yeah. That can also give us a very good idea. Other markers, which I like to do, are request with autoimmune disease of vitamin D naturally, and then I’m going to look at a full panel of all of the white cells or the red cells. I look at liver function, kidney function, et cetera, et cetera.
Depending on the type of autoimmune disease that the person has, then I can go more into that particular area. But when I get any autoimmune disease, the test I always recommend that I’ve completed my clinic is the stool test. That’s the one I do the comprehensive stool analysis. I will request that for the patient, and then also look at all of the blood test results that came from the clinic. That gives you an excellent idea of the level of gut health, i.e. their immune health. Also, then you can see what’s happening in the blood. Get a more full picture, and give you a better outcome with that patient. That’s just a bit about blood testing for autoimmune disease.