In this day and age, when you can order a pizza by talking to your TV, let the exterminator into your house by unlocking the door using your cellphone while at work (and watch her work via online camera feeds), and rent your entire wardrobe online, it’s no wonder the demand for a variety at-home medical tests is rising.
It used to be that at-home testing was limited to diabetics and women wondering if they’re pregnant. These days, tests are available for everything from strep throat, to hyperactive thyroid, to sperm count, to HIV, to genetic predisposition to certain diseases like cystic fibrosis, to colon cancer, and more.
Sometimes, you get your results almost instantly. Other times, you have to mail in your specimen.
Hundreds of at-home tests have received approval since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began regulating them in 1976. Doctors say there are positives and negatives to home testing.
Being able to pick up a pregnancy test at the local drug store saves time and money over scheduling a doctor’s visit. However, if an individual home tests for HIV and receives a positive result, for example, they may not seek proper counseling. On the other hand, if the test results are negative, there is a slim chance the test results are incorrect, and the infected may not know to be careful.
While being able to test at home does provide some good information relatively cheaply and usually quickly, it is always best to back up that knowledge by seeing a clinician or physician.
Below are a few examples of at-home tests:
An at-home test for colon cancer might sound new, but they’ve actually been around since the mid-1990s, though until recently, they only tested for the presence of blood in stool. A new colon cancer test — Colo-Guard — that was just approved in 2014, also tests for genetic markers for colon cancer, making it a little better.
There are two home HIV tests on the market, the most popular of which is Oraquick. Swab your gum and you’ll have an HIV-status result in 20 to 40 minutes. Oraquick boasts, and the FDA confirms, a nearly 92 percent accuracy for positive tests and 99 percent accuracy for negative tests.
If you or your child gets strep throat often, you may be able to save a trip to the doctor by using a Rapid Response strep test kit. Like throat cultures used in doctors’ offices, this test involves swabbing your throat, agitating the swab in a test tube, and using the test strip to see your results. According to Rapid Response and the FDA, the test has a 97 percent accuracy rate for strep A.
Curious about whether your sniffles and itches are caused by allergies? The MyAllergyTest kit, the first and only at-home allergy test, tests for the 10 most common allergens: timothy grass, bermuda grass, cedar, ragweed, mold, egg, milk, wheat, cats, and house dust mite, with an FDA-confirmed 93 percent accuracy. Simply use the included finger prick collection kit to take a blood sample, package it according to the directions, mail it in, and get your results via email or snail mail in about a week.
UTIs can be painful and lead to serious complications, especially in senior adults. Knowing whether your pain is caused by a UTI or something else could help you get treatment much faster. Urinary Tract Infection Test Strips from AZO give you a reading in minutes — letting you know if you need to call the doctor.
High cholesterol can lead to heart attack and stroke. With the Home Testing Kit by Cholestrak, you can get a total cholesterol reading within 15 minutes, with a 97 percent accuracy rate, according to Cholestrak and the FDA. This product will also help you determine your high-density lipoprotein level (HDL), or “good” cholesterol level. Knowing your total cholesterol and your HDL results can help you calculate your Cardio Heart Disease (CHD) risk factor. Each testing device just requires a few drops of blood from a finger prick.
If your thyroid hormones are off, it can interfere with the normal balance of chemical reactions in your body, and eventually cause a number of different health problems from obesity to heart disease. A Home Thyroid TSH Test kit can help detect thyroid problems with a quick finger prick blood test. Simply follow the instructions and put the blood sample onto the collection card, and once it dries, send it off to the lab for analysis.
Sources: “At-Home Medical Tests Have Positives and Negatives”, northjersey.com, John Petrick; and “7 Innovative Home Medical Tests That May Save You a Trip to the Doctor”, everydayhealth.com, Amir Khan.
This article is not intended for medical advice. Please consult your doctor.