It was not too long ago that taking any sort of medical test, from screening for various diseases to testing cholesterol levels, involved calling up your doctor or local clinic, making an appointment, visiting the clinic, and then waiting weeks to get your results back.
Today, we are lucky to be living in the age of Amazon and Uber, where many common tests can be ordered online and you can collect the test sample yourself, in the comfort of your own home. Results are usually sent to you in days, not weeks, and you can quickly learn if a traditional doctor’s visit is warranted.
The number of direct-to-consumer health and wellness tests available online is astounding, and new tests are being developed each month. This guide is designed to give you a comprehensive overview of what types of tests are available.
According to the CDC, “If you are sexually active, getting testing for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.” In fact, the agency goes on to advise that many at-risk groups get tested at least once a year. To make matters complicated, many STDs are asymptomatic, meaning that one can carry the harmful diseases or infections but experience no symptoms.
With the proliferation of many new direct-to-consumer STD test kit providers, screening yourself or a loved one in the privacy of your own home has never been easier. You also have the choice to test for individual diseases separately, or to test for many of the most common STDs all in one test.
The most common STDs to test for include:
Diabetes is a common disease in which the blood sugar (glucose) is abnormally elevated.
Normally, the body obtains glucose from food, and additional glucose is made in the liver. The pancreas produces insulin, which enables glucose to enter cells and serve as fuel for the body.
In patients with diabetes, glucose accumulates in the blood instead of being properly transported into cells.
Excess blood sugar is a serious problem that may damage the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, and other organs.
Diabetes tests measure the levels of blood sugar (glucose) attached to hemoglobin, which can help identify pre-diabetes or determine how well a person’s diabetes is being controlled following a diagnosis. A high HbA1c result indicates that you may have too much sugar in your blood.
Colon cancer often shows no symptoms and can be fatal if diagnosed too late.
The American Cancer Society recommends testing starting at age 45 (and even earlier if colon cancer runs in the family). Yet colonoscopies are notoriously invasive and sometimes present a significant barrier to regular testing.
Recent studies, however, indicate that more convenient at-home colon cancer tests can be nearly as effective. At-home fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) detect hidden blood in the stool, an early symptom of colon cancer.
It is very important to understand that these tests do not determine whether or not you have colon cancer, but rather indicate whether you may require more invasive testing (i.e., a colonoscopy).
Cholesterol is necessary to make the cells in our bodies.
We get cholesterol from two sources. The liver makes cholesterol, and we can also get it from eating foods from animals.
Raised cholesterol levels result in serious conditions such as coronary heart disease and can lead to having a heart attack or stroke. Early detection, however, can increase the chances of better clinical outcomes and allow you to make positive lifestyle changes.
At-home cholesterol tests can indicate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by examining the amount of fat in your blood.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through ticks. The symptoms of the disease include fever, fatigue, headaches, and skin rash. If left untreated, the bacterial infection can spread to the nervous system, the heart, and joints.
At-home Lyme disease tests do not test for the bacteria itself, but rather the antibodies that the body produces when reacting to the disease, Immunoglobulin M (IgM) and Immunoglobulin G (IgG).
By analyzing your DNA and looking at what genetic markers are present, DNA testing companies can tell you about your risk of developing a range of conditions. For example, 23andMe covers 12 different disease risks, including your likelihood of developing:
Carrier status screening is a type of genetic test that can tell you whether you carry a genetic variant associated with certain genetic disorders. Most of the time, these variants will not affect you directly, but you may pass them on to your children.
Examples of diseases that can be passed on in this way include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and hereditary hearing loss. Most commonly, if both parents are carriers for a certain disease-causing variant, there will be a 25% chance that their child will be affected by the disease.
Taking genetic screening tests can allow couples to take steps to minimize the chances that their children will inherit a disorder, or allow them to plan for the future, often with the help of a genetic counselor or their healthcare provider.
Fitness is a very popular DNA test specialty.
These tests analyze different genes related to metabolism, exercise recovery, and muscle strength. Many of the tests attempt to make connections between your DNA profile and how you can optimize your workouts.
The science behind these tests is not yet solid in our opinion. If you decide to take one of these tests, please keep the following caveats in mind. You must:
Take the resulting recommendations with a grain of salt
Keep in mind that lifestyle and environmental factors weigh heavily in most fitness-related outcomes
Consult a professional physical trainer or medical professional before making any drastic changes to your fitness
Incredibly, it is now possible to learn about how well your cells are aging using DNA testing. The tests are based on telomeres, which are cap structures that protect the ends of our chromosomes from being degraded. Your telomeres naturally wear down and shorten as you age. Each time a cell divides and DNA replicates itself, telomeres get a little shorter.
By measuring the length of your telomeres and comparing this result to others of your age and sex, it’s possible to estimate how well you appear to be aging compared to others of your demographic, according to the company database.
It is important to keep in mind that scientific evidence shows that other factors within our control can affect our telomere length positively and negatively, including stress management, diet, exercise, and sleep quality, to name a few.
Food sensitivities are, for the most part, non-life-threatening food intolerances that can make you feel very uncomfortable. Symptoms of food sensitivity include things like nausea, hives, and trouble breathing.
In response to some foods, the body produces IgG antibodies against the antigens. Food sensitivity tests attempt to measure and analyze the IgG antibodies in order to provide recommendations on ways to change your diet to improve overall health and well-being.
The information you gain from these kinds of tests can largely be worked out by using an elimination diet, but this can take a long time to complete. Therefore, if you are anxious to pinpoint your problem foods quickly and think it’s worth the money, a food sensitivity test can be a way to jump-start the process
Vitamin and mineral deficiency tests are pretty self-explanatory–they attempt to measure the amount of certain vitamins and minerals in your blood via a small, painless blood sample. The two most popular of these types of tests by far are tests for Vitamin D and B vitamins.
Vitamin D deficiency is also believed to contribute to serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, various types of cancer, diabetes, infertility, and more.
There are also several effective at-home tests that measure the amount of iron in your body, which helps determine your risk of deficiency anemia or hemochromatosis.
While some DNA tests specialize in analyzing a broad range of genetic traits, others attempt to dive deep into specific areas.
Nutrition is one of the most popular specializations, and these tests aim to provide insights into the ways your DNA may have an effect on how your body responds to foods and nutrients.
Results from these tests may help you make more informed decisions about your diet. However, some physicians worry that test takers can wrongly attribute symptoms such as bloating and fatigue to genetic factors, when they in fact warrant a trip to the doctor to rule out more serious causes.
These tests can be fun if you are a little curious about how your DNA, lifestyle, and biomarkers are all interacting, but please use common sense. If you have legitimate concerns about food allergies or intolerances, you should speak to your physician first
The thyroid is a small gland with two lobes connected by a bridge of tissue that sits below the larynx at the front of the neck. Although not big in size, the thyroid gland plays a major role in ensuring the proper function of the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and skin.
One of the most important hormones secreted by the thyroid is called logically called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is responsible for controlling.
TSH is considered the most sensitive marker for screening for thyroid-related diseases and conditions.
Cortisol is made in our adrenal glands and is released in our bodies naturally each day.
Cortisol affects energy levels by regulating the release of glucose as a main source of the body’s fuel that helps keep us going during the day. Cortisol is also the body’s main stress hormone.
Higher-than-normal cortisol levels are also associated with having trouble falling asleep and overall sleep loss. Testing companies such as Everlywell offer variations of cortisol-based tests that not only test for cortisol but also melatonin, cortisone, and creatinine.melatonin, cortisone, and creatinine.
These tests attempt to evaluate the fluctuations of these hormones at different times of the day in order to provide recommendations on ways to get a more restful night’s sleep and reduce general stress.
Metabolism is the process within your body that converts food to energy. Your metabolism influences your energy levels, weight, body composition, and even mood.
The metabolism tests on the market are, in a sense, a combination of a thyroid/TSH test, a cortisol test, and a testosterone test. These three hormones, among a few others, have a strong influence on body composition, physical performance, and other related.
When combined in a single metabolism test panel, the test results can yield insights into fat storage, mobilization of blood sugar, muscle production, muscle breakdown, physical performance, and body composition.
There are many hormones associated with the health and well-being of women. Among the most important are:
When one or more of these hormones are imbalanced in your body, this may prevent you from feeling your best.
Testing for each of these hormone levels can get expensive. For this reason, we prefer tests that cover levels of many different hormones at the same time. Everlywell’s Female Hormone Test, for example, covers four of the more important ones (FSH, prolactin, estradiol, and LH) at a very reasonable price. But there are many options depending on how many you want to test for and how much you are willing to spend.
When thinking about the male hormones, testosterone is probably the first one that comes to mind. This makes sense because it is the main sex hormone for men and helps the reproductive function. Testosterone is also responsible for facial and body hair, sex drive, energy level, muscle mass, and bone density.
For most men, we would simply recommend a standard testosterone-only test, as it will get you most of what you will want to know at the lowest price. However, there are other hormones that are also important to a man’s health, including:
If you are looking for a more complete (and more expensive) male hormone testing kit, there are plenty of options.
Heavy metals exist naturally in our environment.
Small quantities of some metals, such as copper, selenium, and zinc, are actually necessary for our health. Other chemicals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, aren’t nutritionally beneficial and can be toxic in sufficient quantities. Heavy metals are used in various industries, so they are common pollutants found in water, food, air, and soil.
They can damage organs and lead to diseases such as:
There are a number of options for at-home testing solutions that are outstanding. Not all kits measure the same metals, so it’s important to review which metals are included in the test. Prices often depend on how many metals are included in the test.
All tests can be carried out by collecting a sample at home, and the tests are performed in fully certified labs. Your results will be sent to you within a few days, and all companies provide a report that fully explains the results to you in a comprehensive and understandable way.
Glyphosate is a toxin found in hundreds of herbicide-type products, but Roundup™ is by far the primary source of this toxin. However, most people are also exposed to glyphosate through their diet and/or living choices.
Glyphosate exposure can lead to anxiety, restlessness, depression, trouble digesting foods, and sleep cycle disturbances.
Simple glyphosate at-home tests can attempt to measure recent exposures and help you figure out what steps you should take to limit future exposure.
Your microbiome is a genetic snapshot of all the microscopic organisms in your body.
Usually when people use the term, they’re referring specifically to the gut microbiome. Though scientists have yet to define what an optimally healthy microbiome looks like, if there is even such a thing, most agree that an abnormal microbiome is associated with various health problems.
Most microbiome tests currently on the market attempt to identify microorganisms by sequencing something called 16S RNA, which is found in microorganisms but not in humans, animals or plants. Then, depending on which microorganisms are found to be present, the tests try to indicate how they may have various effects on your health and weight.
These tests may also be able to indicate whether you are more likely than not to suffer from conditions such as IBS, bloating, diarrhea, and/or other abdominal problems.
If you do decide to take one of these new tests, be sure to take them with a huge grain of salt, and remember that the best, simplest way to promote gut health is to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods.
There are a number of hormones that play important roles in a woman’s ability to have normal menstrual cycles and ovulation. Imbalances in these hormones can lead to a variety of troublesome symptoms that negatively affect a woman’s fertility.
At-home fertility tests are generally aimed towards women who are considering starting families, who are concerned about their fertility, or who have experienced symptoms that may indicate a hormonal problem, such as changes to their menstrual cycles or unexplained weight changes.
The hormones analyzed in this test include estradiol, LH, FSH, total testosterone, and TSH. Small blood-drop samples must be collected on a few different specific days of your menstrual cycle.
Ovarian reserve tests attempt to provide insights into a woman’s egg quantity and if she has a presumed normal age-matched count. The tests work by measuring FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels to estimate a woman’s ovarian reserve (how many more times she is likely to ovulate/release an egg) compared to the average for her age.
It is important to understand that ovarian reserve tests do not tell you how likely it is that you may achieve a successful pregnancy from one of these eggs.
Hormonal birth control and other hormone-based therapies may interfere with the results of this test, so most testing companies recommend that you remain hormone-supplement free for at least 6 weeks before taking the test.
Perimenopause tests are primarily for women who think that changes to their menstrual cycle or symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats may be indicative of approaching menopause and want some clarity about their situation.
These tests attempt to measure the amount of hormones that change with perimenopause, mainly estradiol, which is the main estrogen in women produced by the ovaries. It is one of the main sex hormones responsible for ovulation. The better tests can also measure other hormones such as LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone).
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is transmitted through sexual contact and causes almost 100% of cervical cancer in women. It is estimated that 1 in 2 will contract the virus in their lifetime. HPV is symptomless and requires a test to detect the virus.
The best at-home HPV tests on the market attempt to detect all of the highest-risk HPV strains associated with causing cervical cancer, including 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66 and 68. The results of such tests have an accuracy greater than 99%.