Your Guide to Common Medical Lab Tests & What They Measure
Posted by SFSH on December 12, 2019
Laboratory tests are extremely helpful in the medical world. Sometimes they’re a great tool for maintaining good health and preventing disease, but they can also help with diagnosing conditions by checking samples of blood, urine and body tissues.
If you think you could benefit from a lab test, due to your family’s history, your lifestyle or the environment in which you’re living, don’t put it off. Getting tested is a sure way of gaining the information you need about your body and sets you on the path toward a healthy life.
If you are scheduled to have a lab test, here are some things to consider.
What’s a Lab Test?
It’s important to know the purpose of lab tests before diving into the details. Medical lab tests can help detect a condition, define a diagnosis, plan treatment, verify treatment is working or monitor conditions over time.
Lab tests are comprised of a range of components, because normal results differ from person to person. Factors that may affect your test results include:
- Medical history
To get an accurate interpretation of results, your test is usually compared to previous results. Among all the variables that can influence medical decisions, laboratory tests are some of the most important and frequently used. Laboratory test results may influence as much as 70 percent of medical decision-making.
Next, we’ll dive more deeply into the four main reasons for ordering a laboratory test. Some reasons may intersect within each other, but their main goal is to offer more insight into the patient’s health.
- Diagnoses—Tests can rule in or out a diagnosis.
- Monitoring—Tests can record the effects of drug use or how conditions are acting.
- Screening—Tests can check potential health risks for those who don’t have symptoms.
- Research—Tests can help you understand the pathophysiology of a particular disease process.
Diagnostic lab tests are chosen with high specificity and result in a definitive diagnosis. Medical diagnoses can explain a person’s symptoms and medical signs. While symptoms are experienced by the patients themselves, medical signs are different and are discovered by physicians during medical examinations. This can include measured high blood pressure or an aliment unnoticeable by the patient, such as a rash or dilated pupils.
It’s important to have a diagnostic test in order to detect potential problems as early as possible, before symptoms have time to develop into serious conditions. Again, lab test results can also rule out a diagnosis.
Monitoring is an important aspect of laboratory tests and is predominantly used for testing for drugs. Not all drug levels need to be monitored, but these tests are used to monitor blood levels of drugs that run a fine line between being effective and toxic. In other words, too much of a drug can be harmful to a patient—that’s why monitoring is important.
Another reason for lab tests is to monitor how conditions are acting while patients are on medication. In some cases, health professionals may need to re-evaluate the use of specific medication due to new results in lab tests. Monitoring can also let the evaluators know that conditions are gone and that the patient is healthy.
Screening tests are extremely valuable, because they can detect possible common problems. These can include typical tests such as colonoscopies, pap tests and cholesterol measurements. A screening may also be used to better understand previously unclear, ambiguous or perplexing results. They’re used to show if your results fall within normal ranges.
Laboratory testing is an important part of the medical field. Research can help determine how new strands of diseases act and react to particular treatment. Data received can play an important role in identifying and coming up with new treatment for diseases, cancers and other medical conditions. The more we know about our bodies, the better we can learn about and treat sickness. During research, it’s important that all lab tests be interpreted within the context of the patient’s overall health. They also should be compared to other lab tests in order to get the most accurate reading.
There’s a variety of common ailments that may require laboratory tests. These might include anything from diabetes to heart disease. A large number of lab tests revolve around a patient’s blood.
- A complete blood count (CBC) is the most common blood test performed. It measures the types and numbers of white and red blood cells in your blood. A CBC can be used to evaluate your general health, as well as detect a huge range of disorders, including leukemia and anemia. A blood sample may also be taken to monitor your health condition or to monitor your health after receiving specific treatment.
- Another common blood test is for hemoglobin and A1C. Blood tests are some of the best ways to evaluate your glucose status. Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Tests can show high or low levels of hemoglobin, which may be signs of anemia, iron deficiency, cancer or heart disease. The A1C test is used to diagnose diabetes. Maintaining a healthy hemoglobin level may also help diabetic patients prevent further complications of diabetes.
- Strep throat tests are common, especially during late fall and early spring. Strep throat is a bacterial infection that affects the back of the throat and tonsils. A rapid strep test is done to see whether one has strep or not. It involves swabbing the throat. Secretions are then analyzed and tested.
- Testing your cholesterol is another important test for everyone to take, because high cholesterol usually shows no signs or symptoms. Yet another blood test, taking a cholesterol test can help determine your risk of plaque buildup in your arteries.
- A urinalysis can be a diagnostic, monitoring or screening test of urine. It can help detect conditions like urinary-tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. Results can be evaluated visually, through a dipstick test or a microscopic exam. Typically, urinalyses are often the first lab test performed and make great general screening tests in order to check for early signs of diseases.
Lab tests, along with other physical exams and screenings, help give a complete picture of a patient’s overall health. If you are in need of a medical lab test, skip the lines and get the help you need right away. At Sioux Falls Specialty Urgent Care, get your lab tests done and interpreted on your time.