ALBUQUERQUE, N.M – Have you consulted a medical practitioner because you’ve been feeling sick? It didn’t end with a medication prescription. Instead, the medical practitioner recommended laboratory (lab) tests to give a definitive diagnosis.
What, why, and how do lab tests work? Let’s break it down for you:
- What are lab tests?
- Why are lab tests necessary?
- What are the different types of lab tests?
- What are the standard lab tests?
- How do some specific lab tests work?
- When do you need a particular lab test?
- Where is the nearest lab test clinic in Albuquerque?
What are lab tests?
Diagnostic procedures and lab tests are tools to check if you are healthy. It helps determine if you have a medical problem or disease.
Lab tests inspect blood, urine, and other tissues of your body. First, the process involves a medical practitioner getting the sample from you. They send the sample to a laboratory. While at the lab, a trained lab tech runs your sample using a specific device. And finally, a medical practitioner analyzes the results.
The results reflect the normal range of values depending on the lab test. Factors that may affect the results are the following:
- Biological sex
- Medical history
- If you followed pre-test instructions
- If the lab tech followed the testing procedure
- If there were lab errors
Why are lab tests necessary?
A lab test is important because it helps determine a diagnosis. In addition, the results of the lab test guide a medical practitioner in prescribing the proper intervention.
In addition, lab testing shows if an intervention works or not. The intervention is adjusted by a medical practitioner as needed. Lab testing continues beyond the medical evaluation. Medical practitioners further use the results to monitor and manage your disease.
Researchers conducted a study on Best Practices in Laboratory Medicine. The study highlights how medical practitioners use lab tests as valuable tools. And they are clinically valid, effective, and cost-effective.
- Clinically valid: Lab tests results are highly accurate. They improve diagnosis and help a medical practitioner in decision-making.
- Clinically effective: Lab tests add value to the better outcome and overall healthcare goal.
- Cost-effective: Lab tests contribute to lowered healthcare costs.
Thus, lab tests benefit your health and budget. Another study supports this claim. It shows that lack of lab services in primary clinics prevents proper healthcare management. In addition, people are at risk of disease and financial burden.
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What are the different types of lab tests?
Lab tests can give general information about your health. However, some lab tests are more precise and reliable. These lab tests directly pinpoint a specific medical condition.
There are thousands of lab tests. Each lab test depends on the nature of a health problem. But not all health problems need testing. A medical practitioner gives you an order for a lab test based on a study:
- To confirm a diagnosis or to rule it out
- To monitor if medications or interventions are working or not
- To screen for a specific medical condition
- To research or understand the nature of a particular disease
What are the common lab tests?
The three common lab tests are blood work, urinalysis, and tumor marker test.
1. Blood test
The most standard blood test evaluated is the Complete Blood Count (CBC). A medical practitioner usually recommends you have yearly routine blood work or CBC. It measures the blood components like red and white blood cells and platelets. Other components are hemoglobin and hematocrit.
A CBC shows your general health status. It screens for any disorders and nutritional status. Moreover, it’s essential for monitoring a medical condition and intervention.
Red and white blood cells and platelets have typical normal values of ranges. Any variation of these values indicates a health problem.
For instance, a high red blood count may point out polycythemia or heart disease. A low blood white count may mean an autoimmune disorder. At the same time, an abnormal platelet count may indicate an underlying condition.
A urine test or urinalysis detects many disorders. Examples are urinary tract infection, diabetes, and kidney or liver disease.
Like CBC, a urinalysis shows your general health status. It can either diagnose or monitor a medical condition and intervention.
There are specific urine tests for different purposes. These tests look for other substances in the urine. For instance, this test shows if a woman is pregnant by measuring the HCG hormone. It can also reveal if a person uses drugs by identifying them in the urine.
3. Tumor marker test
According to the National Cancer Institute, a tumor marker is any cancer-causing protein or substance. Lab tests will find tumor markers in body fluids and abnormal growths like blood, urine, and tumor.
Tumor markers help screen or detect different cancers. But most often, doctors use them for people who have been diagnosed with cancer.
A medical practitioner can plan the medical intervention based on it. Or it checks if medical intervention is effective or not. Further, it helps determine if cancer has spread or metastasized.
How do some specific lab tests work?
Since there are thousands of lab tests, let’s pick five interesting tests you may not know. These specific tests reveal your health status. It potentially works to improve your physical, mental, and psychological well-being.
1. Vitamin D Level Test
Vitamin D comes in two forms, D2 or ergocalciferol and D3 or cholecalciferol. D2 comes mainly from food sources like milk and dairy products. In contrast, your body produces D3 from exposure to sunlight. You can also find it in fatty fish and eggs.
Once in your bloodstream, both D vitamins change into 25-hydroxyl Vitamin D or 25(OH)D. Your body needs it for healthy bones and teeth.
A Vitamin D blood test measures the level of 25(OH)D. Low or high levels of Vitamin D indicate that you might have bone problems. Autoimmune diseases, asthma, psoriasis, and nutrition problems are indicative of an abnormal Vitamin D level.
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2. Oxidative Stress Panel
Your body naturally produces antioxidants. It increases when you eat various foods and vitamins. Vitamins C and E, fruits, and veggies, and coffee are examples.
In contrast, your body produces free radicals as it reacts to toxins and pollutants. Your body also gets exposed to free radicals in the environment. Some of these sources are cigarette smoke, radiation, and pesticides. In addition, consuming alcohol and foods high in sugar and fats contribute to free radicals.
Antioxidants fight free radicals in your body. An imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals is called oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress impacts the body in many ways. More free radicals than antioxidants can contribute to aging and cause diseases. It includes:
- Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases
- autoimmune disorders
- hardening of blood vessels
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
The oxidative stress panel shows your body’s oxidative stress status. It also measures your body’s antioxidant reserves
3. Food Sensitivity Testing
There are instances when you get sick from eating certain foods. For example, some people react to peanuts, chocolates, or eggs. In comparison, others feel unwell after consuming milk, wheat, or foods containing preservatives.
Your body’s adverse reaction to food denotes an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. Food allergy involves antibodies in your immune system. It can be life-threatening.
Food sensitivity involves the immune system like allergy, but intolerances do not. Intolerances refer to problems in digesting food. In contrast to allergy, food sensitivity or intolerance aren’t as severe or life-threatening.
A food sensitivity test isn’t an official diagnosis. But it identifies a specific food that triggers your symptoms. It sees how your immune system reacts to certain foods.
A food sensitivity test looks for Immunoglobulin G or IgG antibodies in your blood. It’s also called the Food Inflammation Test or FIT.
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4. Comprehensive Nutritional Evaluation
You may often miss meals. Or you think you’re eating right, but you still feel “off” or rundown. Yet, food is a vital source of vitamins and nutrients needed by the body.
Your nutritional status and state of health reflect the food you eat. A nutritious diet impacts your body, mind, and psychological well-being. It ensures proper body function, growth, and health. It prevents illnesses and improves your quality of life.
Nutritional assessment is vital in identifying people at risk of malnutrition. It also identifies people who are already malnourished.
A comprehensive nutritional evaluation determines what vitamins, minerals, and nutrients need replenishment. Medical practitioners can plan for dietary interventions once you establish a nutritional status. It has five kinds, according to experts:
- Anthropometric measurements: checks the height, weight, and size or proportions of the body
- Biochemical assessment: assesses the body’s level of nutrients through blood, urine, and stool
- Clinical assessment: checks for nutritional deficiency through medical history, physical signs, medications you take, and risk factors (e.g., alcohol use, smoking, and obesity)
- Dietary assessment: assesses food and fluid intake, quantity and quality of food, food allergies, and appetite changes
- Food security assessment refers to food access, availability, and consumption.
5. Glutathione Level Test
Glutathione (GSH) is a naturally occurring antioxidant in your body. It’s composed of cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. GSH helps combat free radicals that harm your body.
Likewise, GHS boosts your immune system and protects you from chronic diseases. It includes some cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Even if your liver naturally produces GSH, its level decreases as you age.
GSH level also dips due to chronic stress, poor diet, and liver diseases.
Low GSH level leads to a progression of many human diseases. In addition, one latest study suggests GSH deficiency aggravates COVID-19.
Low GSH level or GSH synthetase deficiency can be mild, moderate, or severe. A glutathione level blood test shows if you have GSH deficiency. It helps to monitor your immune function, general health, and risk of diseases.
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When do you need a specific lab test?
You can’t walk into a clinic and ask to be tested. Instead, a medical practitioner advises you to take a specific lab test if needed.
- When should you get a Vitamin D level test?
A medical practitioner can order you to undergo a Vitamin D level test if you have risks factors.
- Malnutrition or low intake of Vitamin D
- Insufficient sun exposure
- Dark complexion
- Malabsorption conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac or Crohn’s disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney problems such as renal insufficiency or nephrotic syndrome
Take note of some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:
- Bone or muscle pains
- Delayed wound healing
- Losing hair
- Prone to infections
- When should you get tested for oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress leads to other medical conditions. A medical practitioner may prescribe an oxidative stress panel if you have any of these conditions:
- Autoimmune disorder
- Heart disease
- Neurodegenerative disease
- When should you be tested for food sensitivity?
You are at risk for food sensitivity if you or your family have asthma, eczema, or allergies. A medical practitioner orders a test if you think you have a food sensitivity. Some of the symptoms you may experience are the following:
- Stomach problems like bloating, pain, or diarrhea
- Skin itchiness or rashes
- Generally feeling sick
- Symptoms occur within a few hours, or you may not experience symptoms for more than a day.
- Do you need a comprehensive nutritional evaluation?
Special conditions require nutritional assessment. It includes pregnant women and people who have tuberculosis, HIV, and other chronic diseases.
A comprehensive nutritional evaluation benefits underweight people. It may be unintentional weight loss. Or it can be due to an eating disorder. Examples are anorexia, bulimia, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. People recovering from surgery and athletes also need increased nutrients.
- How do you know if you need a glutathione level test?
Glutathione deficiency symptoms vary. A person’s symptoms may not be apparent in others. Do you experience any of the following symptoms?
- Body pains
- Brain fog
- Feeling weak or lacks energy
- Poor sleep
- Coordination movement problems
- Recurrent infections
Other risk factors include heredity and alcoholism.
Not everyone has to undergo a lab test. Often, medical practitioners give a diagnosis based on medical history and symptoms. However, lab tests can validate and provide a more definitive diagnosis.
Since there are thousands of lab tests, medical practitioners recommend lab tests only when you need them. Some of these specific lab tests help in improving your general health and well-being:
- Vitamin D Level Test
- Oxidative Stress Panel
- Food Sensitivity Testing
- Comprehensive Nutritional Evaluation
- Glutathione Level Test
Where is the nearest lab test clinic in Albuquerque?
The Injection and Infusion Clinic is conveniently located at 8400 Osuna Road NE, Suite 5C, Albuquerque.