The CH50 blood test is a blood test used to measure the body’s complement system.
This is the part of the immune system that “enhances” your white blood cells to fight harder.
If your complement system is compromised, then you will be more susceptible to infection. In this article, we’ll talk about what it means when your CH50 is high.
CH50 High – What it Means
A high result on a CH50 blood test means that your immune system is actively engaged.
In other words, there’s something causing inflammation in your body. People with chronic inflammation often get a high result on this blood test.
Other potential causes include juvenile RA, inflammation of the thyroid gland, and ulcerative colitis. Certain cancers are also possible.
The CH50 Blood Test Explained
The CH50 blood test will measure your complement system. Once the doctor takes a sample of your blood, they can use it to make a more accurate diagnosis.
Here are some of the reasons why doctors use this blood test:
- Test for Microbes: The CH50 blood test is a great diagnostic procedure for discovering the presence of a microbial infection.
- Monitor Autoimmune Disorders: Do you have an autoimmune disorder like lupus? If so, this blood test can help monitor it.
- Track Immune Complex Diseases: For people with kidney diseases or vasculitis, this blood test will help track your disease.
As you can see, it’s an important piece of a doctor’s medical arsenal. There’s no preparation required for this blood test.
Simply show up and get your blood drawn from the arm. If the results show a high CH50, then your doctor may order more tests.
Importance of the Complement System
The complement system is part of the innate immune system. This is the branch of the immune system that doesn’t change over the course of your life.
This is different than the adaptive immune system, which does change over time.
After pathogens enter the body, white blood cells may need extra help. So, they call the complement system.
The complement system will “support” parts of the immune system to help them fight harder. This could be why your CH50 is high.
What Does a Low CH50 Mean?
If you have a low CH50 then it means the opposite: your complement isn’t actively engaged. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t a good thing.
Why? Because it means you’re probably malnourished or your immune system isn’t working properly. Either way, it’s not good news.
Some less common reasons for a low result include hepatitis, cirrhosis, or serum sickness.
A normal result means that you’re healthy and there’s probably no chronic inflammation in your body.
After a CH50 Blood Test – What to Expect
What happens after the doctor takes your blood and sees a high CH50 result?
They will probably perform a few more tests to rule out specific diseases. This blood test cannot give you a specific diagnosis. It’s only one piece of the puzzle.
If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection, then they’ll probably put you in antibiotics.
If viral, then anti-viral medication. They may need to investigate further to rule out autoimmune conditions like lupus or vasculitis.
Once the doctor determines the cause, they can put you on an appropriate treatment plan.
Just remember that this isn’t a 100% definitive test that has all the answers. Note, this test is often ordered along with a C3 or C4 blood test.
Common Autoimmune Diseases and Disorders
An autoimmune disease is any disease that causes your body to attack itself. A high CH50 could be indicative of the following:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is when the immune system attacks your joints. It leads to pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Lupus: The formal name is systemic lupus erythematous. People with this condition develop autoimmune antibodies that cause unpleasant symptoms.
- Multiple Sclerosis: The immune system attacks its own nerve cells, leading to muscle spasms, weakness, and more.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): The immune system attacks the intestinal lining. This causes abdominal pain, black stools, diarrhea, and more.
Another common one is psoriasis. This is when the immune system attacks the skin, leading to plaques.
These conditions/diseases have one thing in common: they are autoimmune diseases.
If any autoimmune disease, you should expect your CH50 to be high. This is because your complement system is getting involved in the attack as well.
Now that you understand the CH50 blood test in greater detail, it might give you more peace of mind. This is a routine diagnostic procedure that’s done all the time.
If you have a high result, it could be something minor like a bacterial or viral infection.
However, if you’re exhibiting other, more serious symptoms, then it could be the result of an autoimmune disease/condition.