At-home tests allow you to check for diseases and conditions at your convenience and receive results quickly, while keeping them confidential. Home pregnancy kits have been available since 1978, and today there are a plethora of other tests available that are FDA. These tests may help detect diseases or infections before you have any symptoms (like cholesterol), or help you monitor conditions for adjustment in treatment (like glucose levels for diabetes), but remember they can’t take the place of the care and oversight your regular doctor provides.
Total cholesterol is a factor doctors use to determine your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years. The new cholesterol guidelines published last year by the American College of Cardiology have brought a more urgent need for cholesterol monitoring.
The home cholesterol test involves pricking your finger and placing a drop of blood on the test strip. The strip has special chemicals that change colors after a few minutes. You can then match the final color against the color guide included in the kit. The guide will tell you how much cholesterol is in your blood sample.
Some home cholesterol tests are as accurate as the ones your doctor uses, depending on how precisely you follow the directions. Test accuracy can also vary from brand to brand, but those that are certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be more accurate than others.
Most adults should have their cholesterol tested about every five years. Medications or special diets might require testing more frequently. Talk to your doctor about what your specific needs may be.
If you think you have been infected by hepatitis C, you can use this home test to determine if you have an infection now or if you had one in the past. If left untreated, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause liver disease — and is the number one cause for liver transplantation in the US.
The hepatitis C test is a home collection kit that is sent to a laboratory for analysis. You collect a blood sample by pricking your finger and putting a drop of blood on the filter paper. You then place the paper in a special container and send it off to the lab.
Like the cholesterol tests, this test is as accurate as the ones your doctor uses, depending on how precisely you follow the directions to collect your blood sample.
If you take blood-thinning drugs such as Coumadin or Warfarin, you may need to test your blood frequently to make sure it’s clotting properly. Home use prothrombin tests tell you how long it takes for your blood to clot.
If your doctor recommends this test for you, be sure to find out how often you should take it. Your doctor may have you use the results to adjust your medication levels to control your blood clotting. Never change the dosage you take without directions from your doctor.
To take this test, prick your finger and place a drop of blood on the test strip. Insert the strip (or cartridge) into the test meter. The meter will then measuring the clotting time, as well as how much anticoagulant effect there is.
Be sure to read your meter’s manual and follow the directions to achieve accurate measurements.
When considering a home use test, be sure to choose one that has been approved by the FDA to ensure that it is reasonably safe and effective. If you suspect you have a medical condition, talk with your doctor to ensure you are keeping yourself healthy and safe.
This article first appeared in the October 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.