We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Sedimentation Rate?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Sedimentation rate can refer to a blood test formally known as erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Sedimentation rate can also refer to the result of such a test. This test has been widely used by doctors to screen for inflammatory diseases and to monitor the progress of treatment.

Erythrocytes are red blood cells. An ESR is a procedure that measures how fast red blood cells become sediment in blood serum. To conduct the procedure, blood needs to be drawn and stored in a tube. The tube needs to be left still and in an upright position. Eventually, the red bloods cells will begin to descend. The sedimentation rate is gathered by noting how fast the red blood cells descend in an hour.

Although this is a fairly simple test, it is usually conducted in a laboratory. The sedimentation rate is expressed as millimeters per hour, or mm/hr. There are sedimentation rates that are considered normal depending upon age and sex. For example, the normal rate for females under 50 is generally 0-20 mm/hr and for males under 50 it is 0-15 mm/hr. These rates tend to be slightly elevated with advanced age.

Above normal sedimentation rates can be an indicator of inflammation. For this reason, these tests have been widely used by physicians who suspect conditions such as polymyalgia rheumatica and temporal arthritis. When the test accurately indicates inflammation, the rule is that the higher the rate, the more inflammation that is likely to be present in the body.

ESR is a screening test, however, and is not advised as a diagnostic tool. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, although a sedimentation rate may indicate inflammation, it cannot pinpoint where the inflammation is or what is causing it.

Furthermore, an abnormal sedimentation rate can indicate numerous conditions, depending on the amount of variance. Above normal rates could be caused by conditions such as syphilis, tuberculosis, or pregnancy. When the rates are drastically higher than normal, the causes could be systemic infection, multiple myeloma, or necrotizing vasuclitis. It is also possible for the sedimentation rate to be below normal, in which case, the problem could be congestive heart failure, sickle cell anemia, or polycythemia.

Drugs can affect sedimentation rates. For example, oral contraceptives and vitamin A can increase the rate, while aspirin and quinine can decrease it. For these reasons, an ESR is normally conducted in conjunction with other tests, such as comprehensive metabolic panels and rheumatoid factors.

Sedimentation rates can also be used for monitoring purposes. A person who has an elevated rate due to inflammation, for example, should find the rate normalizes when the inflammation decreases. Stable or decreasing sedimentation rates can, therefore, be an indication of the effectiveness of a prescribed treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.