Lab Tests and What They Can Tell You
Lab tests are a common diagnostic tool healthcare professionals use for the prevention of disease, diagnosing or ruling out a particular condition, and disease treatment and management.
Our body fluids, especially blood and urine, tell a story about our current health state and can provide important information on our organ function, heart health, hormone levels, immune system, and the presence of disease. According to Abbott, 70 percent of medical decisions are determined using laboratory and diagnostic test results, which make them a critical tool in understanding the status of our health.
It is suggested that, at a minimum, people should get lab tests done once a year during their routine physical exam. This allows the doctor to catch and treat any abnormalities early to prevent the condition from getting worse.
Other reasons to run lab work outside of your annual exam include:
- If you are experiencing new symptoms, such as weight loss, fatigue, pain, or abnormalities that don’t go away on their own
- To set a baseline and from which to improve your health
- To check for vitamin deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances
- To diagnose a disease or medical condition
- To monitor treatment plans to see if they are working
How and Where to Get Lab Tests Done
If you would like to get lab work done, you will typically first need a doctor’s order, which is required in all states except Arizona. Depending on your health provider, they may refer you to a specific lab for collection or allow you to choose a lab facility that is convenient for you.
Lab work may be covered by your insurance. However, many labs offer set or a la carte pricing that may be cheaper than filing an insurance claim. It is important to check your options beforehand to decide which is best for you.
Most Common Lab Tests
There are a variety of different lab and diagnostic tests that are used to gauge someone’s current health status and are performed based on symptoms and medical necessity.
The most common routine lab tests that involve taking samples of blood and urine include the following:
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
The CBC test is probably the most common test ordered. It is designed to analyze both the types and numbers of cells in the blood including red and white blood cells.
CBC test results can explain symptoms of fatigue and weakness, test for nutritional deficiencies, and diagnose medical conditions such as:
Basic Metabolic Panel
This blood test measures several chemical biomarkers including glucose, sodium and potassium, chloride, carbon dioxide, blood urea nitrogen, and creatinine.
Basic metabolic panel results can help evaluate and determine:
- Blood sugar levels
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Kidney function
- Fluid balances
This test can also evaluate the effect of medications to treat high blood pressure. Fasting is typically required before the test can be completed.
The lipid panel blood test is used to evaluate and monitor heart health. It usually requires fasting beforehand.
The test provides information on triglyceride, cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels which help determine if you are at risk for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
A urinalysis measures the concentration, appearance, and content of someone’s urine to look for abnormalities and to evaluate and monitor:
- Kidney function
- Urinary tract infection
- Drug use
What Lab Results Tell You
Whether it is a routine or diagnostic lab test, the composition of our blood and urine provides us with several clues on overall health and the presence of disease or illness.
Typically, if lab work comes back out of the normal range, the doctor or medical professional may order more tests and evaluations before making a diagnosis and creating a treatment plan.
Lab results can help explain medical symptoms, diagnose disease, and help doctors monitor:
- Kidney function
- Diabetes risk
- Liver function
- Risk of heart disease
- Bone and muscle health
- Electrolyte and fluid balance
- Immune system
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Hormone levels
Even if you are healthy, it is a good idea to get blood work done annually to determine a baseline of lab values that can assist your healthcare team with preventing or catching disease and illness early. Routine lab values can also help you set health improvement goals such as healthy eating, exercise, and weight-loss.
At Tripment, we believe that healthcare can be done better, and it starts with helping people understand the importance of lab tests and how they can help your healthcare team monitor, diagnose, and treat any medical conditions that arise. Contact us to learn more about the services we provide to pair you with a trusted primary care physician in your area.