Have you been feeling a little off lately? Maybe it’s chest congestion or a lingering stomachache. Perhaps it’s a general feeling that something’s not right. Whatever it is, you know you should go to the doctor. Still, you haven’t picked up the phone.
Doctor visits can be a hassle. The first available appointment could be weeks out. Your boss may be a real stickler about granting time off. Plus, there’s the matter of getting there.
Don’t be stressed — there’s good news! You don’t always need to go to the doctor to get answers about your health. At-home test kits are convenient ways to learn what’s going on with your body. These six types of kits offer certified lab results that can either ease your mind or push you toward the doctor.
1. Sexually Transmitted Infections
If you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you could be afraid to tell anyone. To be honest, there’s no reason to be embarrassed about having an STI. More people have them than you realize. In fact, the CDC estimates there are 20 million new infections annually in the United States. If you’re concerned, though, you need to find out for sure because you may need treatment.
Fortunately, at-home STI testing is readily available. These tests are like the ones you’d take at the doctor’s office. Collect a sample — urine, blood, or a quick swab from down below — and mail it in. Within about a week, you’ll know whether you’ve been exposed to gonorrhea, HIV, or another STI. Results are roughly 95%-99% accurate.
If you have active symptoms, though, go ahead and schedule a visit with your doctor.
2. Thyroid Disease
Have you put on some pounds lately without changing your diet or exercise schedule? Or, now that you think of it, are you super tired? If so, your thyroid could be out of balance.
This butterfly-shaped gland is the control switch for your metabolism. When it’s not working correctly, it can hurt your brain, liver, kidneys, and heart.
To conduct an at-home thyroid test, you’ll need to take a blood sample with a finger prick. Your results will tell you whether your three main thyroid hormone levels are normal. If they’re a little (or a lot) off, talk to your doctor about what’s wrong and what treatment you need.
You’ve heard it your whole life — keep your cholesterol low for good heart health. A level that climbs too high puts you at greater risk of heart attack or stroke. Even if you get your cholesterol checked during every annual exam, your last result may no longer be accurate. That’s especially true if you’ve gained weight or changed your diet.
A quick, at-home test can tell you within minutes if your cholesterol is creeping up. You won’t even need to mail in your finger-prick blood sample. Just put the droplet on a chemical test strip and watch the test change colors. Use the color guide to figure out your cholesterol level. If the results are concerning, let your doctor know so they can help you manage any risks for heart disease.
4. Colon Cancer
If you’ve been dreading a colonoscopy, we have good news! There’s an at-home test that could help you sidestep that invasive exam. Either Cologuard or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) can let you test from your own bathroom.
You’ll need to collect a stool sample for this test. Even though the process is a tad messy, these kits are extremely accurate. Cologuard can pick up DNA markers for colon cancer. FIT can identify one of the main symptoms of the disease — blood in your stool.
Just be aware that the at-home test doesn’t mean you can bypass a colonoscopy altogether. If you get positive results, you need to see your doctor.
5. Lyme Disease
It’s cooler outside now, we know. Once the weather warms up, though, you’ll probably spend more time outdoors. Pay attention if you suddenly feel achy and get a fever after a day in the sun. A tick bite could be the reason.
Known mainly for sucking your blood (ack!), ticks can also give you Lyme disease. It’s dangerous because it can damage your heart, joints, and nerves if it’s left untreated.
The Lyme disease at-home test is interesting. It doesn’t search for the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that cause the condition. Instead, it pinpoints whether you’ve developed the antibodies that fight the infection. The results can tell you within a few days if your blood contains Immunoglobulin G (IgG) or Immunoglobulin M (IgM). If you’re positive for either, you’ll need antibiotics.
6. Genetic Conditions
Want to know whether you’re sensitive to caffeine? Maybe your family history has you concerned about your risk for a specific cancer. The answers could be locked in your genes, and an at-home test can unlock the DNA details.
Just as with many other home tests, you’ll send a saliva or blood sample to a certified lab. Your results can tell you whether you’re potentially at risk for various diseases, including cancer or degenerative conditions. Many companies offer access to genetic counselors who can explain your results.
Keep in mind, these tests aren’t quite as accurate as in-clinic ones. So if you have a serious concern, talk to your doctor.
These six types of at-home tests give you a handy, private way to find out more about your health. The answers can be reassuring, or they can tell you whether you need more medical care. If the latter is the case, don’t ignore the results — take them to your doctor. The information can help your physician figure out your best treatment options.