If you are reading this article, you're probably interested in finding out which common health concerns blood tests can help you identify. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, however, let's go over some relevant details about blood tests that some doctors may be hesitant to disclose.
If you're getting a blood test and are concerned about what they might uncover, know that test results can vary by age, sex, and even the lab that processes your blood work, as they can each use different test values or "normalcy" ranges. False positives in certain tests, like those for HIV, can happen but are not commonplace. False negatives are equally rare but also occur if you've recently been exposed to a type of virus that takes longer to infect the organism and can take months to detect. Once your lab results are in, don't give in to the temptation of interpreting them yourself. Instead, always consult with your physician. Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need and request further tests if you feel something is amiss. Although mistakes can happen and looking for a second or third opinion doesn't hurt, your doctor should be able to reassure you and provide information and recommendations to help you manage underlying health issues related to abnormal test result values.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common types of vitamin deficiencies, especially in colder regions where there is little sun throughout the year. People who stay indoors, always wear sunscreen when going out, are overweight or elderly, and don't consume the recommended dose of 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D on a daily basis are more likely to have a deficiency of this kind. Common signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, recurrent infections, bone and joint pain, slow wound healing, depression, muscle pain, and hair loss. Luckily, this is a problem that can be easily remedied and detected with a simple vitamin D blood test. If you suspect you may have this problem but can't afford a blood test, start taking vitamin supplements and try to include fish, eggs, and calcium-rich foods in your diet.
If you're experiencing unusual symptoms like an increase in thirst or hunger, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, tingling in your hands or feet, or very sweet-smelling breath, your doctor may recommend you get a blood glucose test. As the name suggests, this will measure the amount of glucose or sugar in your blood. The test can be done at home or in a lab, and all that's required to perform it is a blood glucose meter. Know that blood sugar levels vary throughout the day, but for an individual without diabetes, these should be 100 m/dL on an empty stomach. Before meals, healthy blood glucose levels can range between 70 and 99 mg/dL. Although glucose is a source of energy for most cells of the body, abnormally high blood sugar levels can cause inflammation of the blood vessels and other nerves, and be indicative of diabetes. Again, consult your doctor if you show any of the symptoms mentioned above. Early detection and management can help you keep your condition under control.
A lipid panel is a blood test that measures different kinds of cholesterol and fats, also known as lipids, your blood. These tests usually require the subject to fast from 10 to 12 hours, so their results aren't affected by any recent food consumption. Lipid panels measure HDL or good cholesterol, LDL or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. Healthy total cholesterol levels should not exceed 240 mg/dL, while ideal bad cholesterol levels should remain under 100 mg/dL. High amounts of good cholesterol can protect against heart disease, so a value of 60 mg/dL or higher is ideal. A lipid profile is the best way to identify abnormally high levels of lipoproteins in your blood, which may indicate cardiovascular diseases, some genetic diseases, and pancreatitis, among others. Bad cholesterol doesn't cause symptoms, yet individuals who smoke, consume foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats, or who are overweight, have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Anemia, Leukemia, and Lymphomas
A Complete Blood Count (CBC) measures the amount and the condition of blood components such as red and white blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelets. These types of blood tests are among the most common and can detect health issues like infections, anemia, and even leukemia, a form of cancer that originates in your bone marrow or lymphatic system and produces large quantities of abnormal white blood cells. If you or a loved one have been experiencing symptoms such as fevers, bruising, weakness, or exhaustion, consult your physician and ask whether a CBC could help identify the possible causes of your symptoms.
The thyroid is a gland that controls your body's metabolic processes and can affect your heart health, brain chemistry, and energy levels. There are various types of thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer. Common thyroid disorder symptoms can include fatigue, mental fog, slower reflexes, constipation, fluid retention, muscle and joint aches, tremors, feeling cold, increased sweating, nervousness, etc. As these symptoms are so general, they may be confused with other diseases, so identifying thyroid disorders requires a thyroid-stimulating-hormone or THC blood test that measures the amount of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) the pituitary gland is signaling the thyroid to produce. Low T4 levels could be indicative of thyroid disease or problems with the pituitary gland, especially if TSH levels remain within normal values. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above or if there is a history of autoimmune disorders in your family.
Other Autoimmune Diseases
There are numerous types of autoimmune disorders, yet the most common ones include rheumatoid arthritis, Grave's disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, etc. Autoimmune disorders take place when the body's immune system has an abnormal reaction to healthy body tissues, attacking and destroying them without apparent cause. Besides the destruction of healthy tissue, these disorders can also cause changes in organ function and abnormal growth. Common symptoms include fatigue, fever, rash, joint pain, and malaise. Autoimmune diseases are widespread and can be detected through various kinds of blood tests that measure one or more types of autoantibodies as well as C-reactive protein (CRP), and Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) tests that measure inflammation.
These are only some of the most common health problems that blood tests can help you identify, in conjunction with a medical evaluation, yet there are many other tests and screenings available, which can detect anything from HIV and STIs to various forms of tumors and cancers. Whether you're experiencing specific health issues or just want a general wellness check, visiting a lab facility or ordering an online blood test can help put your mind at ease and give you insights into the kind of lifestyle changes you can implement to improve your health and quality of life. Just remember to consult a doctor or physician that can help you interpret your lab results, provide an accurate prognosis, and discuss the different treatment options available to you.