Going to the doctor isn’t always easy. Getting an appointment can take weeks. Taking time off work can be tricky.
Sometimes, just walking into the office can give you butterflies. Fortunately, you don’t always need to sit in an exam room to get your health questions answered.
You can actually learn a lot about why you’re feeling the way you do from the comfort of your home.
From testing for sexually transmitted diseases to cancer to cholesterol, at-home test kits are convenient and affordable. They’re also an effective way for patients to figure out what’s going on with their bodies.
7 Things You Can Test for at Home
If you have concerns about any of the seven conditions below, there’s an FDA-approved at-home test available.
The certified lab results will either put your mind at ease or let you know it’s time for that doctor’s appointment.
#1. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
STIs are more common than you think. According to the CDC, there are 20 million new infections every year. So, having an STI is nothing to be embarrassed about. That said, you might not feel comfortable getting tested in person. STI testing is now something you can do in the privacy of your own home. Get tested if you’re worried you’ve been exposed, because it’s important to your health and your partner’s.
At-home STI testing can detect HIV, gonorrhea, and other STIs. They use the same type of samples collected during an office visit (blood, urine, and swabs from down there). You’ll get your answer in roughly a week, and results are between 95% and 99% accurate. If you have active symptoms or need to know results ASAP, skip the at-home test and see your doctor instead.
Right now, there are few things scarier than thinking you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. With cases going up, the doctor’s office is the last place you want to be. An at-home test can keep you out of the waiting room where your chances of catching the virus are higher.
The two COVID-19 tests have do-it-yourself versions. You’ll have to do the dreaded nasal swab for each one (just an inch inside your nose, so don’t worry). The RT-PCR test is more accurate, but it takes a day or two to get results. If you don’t have time to wait that long, the rapid antigen test lets you know within minutes. Just remember it’s not as accurate and can miss some infections.
#3. Colon Cancer
This one is basically a poop test. While a colonoscopy is the typical exam for colon cancer, it’s invasive (and requires a sedative!). If you’re at least 45 or have a family history of colon cancer, try an at-home test instead. You can choose either a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or Cologuard®.
Both can be a little messy — you must collect a stool sample — but they are highly accurate. They work in two ways. FIT tests look for blood in your sample, and Cologuard searches for colon cancer DNA markers. You still might not escape the colonoscopy, however. Any positive results, and you’re headed to the doctor.
#4. Prostate Cancer
If you’re a man, your risk of prostate cancer climbs as you get older. Fortunately, survival rates are high, especially with early detection. An at-home test makes that easy, and the process is simple. All it takes is a check of your level of prostate specific antigen (PSA), the prostate protein.
Collect a small blood sample via a finger prick, and mail it into the lab. You’ll know within a week if your level is high enough to point to cancer. Keep in mind this is just the first step. Your doctor can use your at-home test outcomes to figure how serious your condition is and decide on treatment.
#5. Thyroid Disease
Have you been exhausted lately? Or noticed that you’re putting on weight for no good reason? Your thyroid, that butterfly-shaped gland that controls your metabolism, could be out of whack. Imbalances can have major impacts on your heart, kidneys, and liver, as well as your brain. So, you need to know what’s going on.
Like a prostate cancer test, this at-home kit uses a finger-prick blood sample. It measures the three main thyroid hormones and tells you if your levels are normal. If not, a doctor can help you figure out if you have other thyroid-related conditions.
#6. Lyme Disease
If you’ve spent a lot of time outdoors lately and are feverish and achy, it’s time to think about ticks. Those creepy little black bugs do more than suck your blood (yuck and yikes!). They can also transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Catching the infection is critical because without treatment, it can hurt your nerves, heart, and joints.
Rather than testing for the bacteria, an at-home kit looks for the antibodies you make to fight it. Within a few days, your results will show whether you have Immunoglobulin M (IgM) or Immunoglobulin G (IgG) in your blood. If you do, see your doctor for an antibiotic prescription.
It’s no secret you’re supposed to keep your cholesterol in check. High overall levels can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Relying on a test during your annual physical may not be enough if your diet or weight has changed. That’s where the at-home test comes in, and you won’t need a lab to get results.
By now, you’re familiar with the finger-prick blood sample. Putting that blood droplet on a special test strip gives you a measurement within minutes. Chemicals on the strip react with your blood and change colors. A color guide helps you match up with your cholesterol level. Share these results with your doctor to better determine your heart disease risk and treatment options.
Don’t Keep It All to Yourself
At-home tests are great for giving you faster results when getting to the doctor is tough. You can’t treat them as an endpoint, however. Just knowing whether you test positive for a condition isn’t enough. You’ll eventually need to get your doctor involved.
If your test results reveal any problems, it’s time to call the office. Share your information, and the staff can work with you to find the first available appointment. Use the at-home test as the first step to putting yourself on a path toward better health.
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