Updated: Jun 11
Do you know the meaning of all the lab tests that your doctor ordered you to have? Depending on your particular case, some will be needed to assess your current conditions. Others are ordered to check your health in general. Even when you consider yourself a healthy individual, it is possible to detect that something is not working so well with a routine lab test. Having your lab tests done helps your provider to create the best plan of care.
There are tons of lab tests. Some of them check your blood, like the Complete Blood Count (CBC); others check your urine. Some of them need to be fasting, like the Fasting Blood Glucose (FBG); while others don’t. Some tests need special preparation in advance. Others can be done at any time during the day, while some have a specific time in the day to be done. Your doctor will give you the instructions to prepare for your tests. Following the instructions will give more accurate results.
Common Laboratory Tests
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
This is an always-to-be-asked lab test. With a CBC your doctor can assess many things that are happening in your body. For example, it can show if you are having anemia by looking specifically at the Hemoglobin level. It also can show if you are having an infection by looking at the white blood cells. The level of platelets can tell the doctor if you have a coagulation disorder that might need immediate attention. The number of red and white cells can indicate if there is a disorder with your blood components, like leukemia. These are just a few examples; many other diseases or conditions can be detected with a simple CBC.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
Another important test is the CMP. With a CMP your doctor will see how are your body's chemical balance and metabolism. For example, it shows your levels of sodium, potassium, chloride, and carbon dioxide. They can be affected by multiple conditions that go from dehydration to lung diseases. Another component that is measured is calcium. Abnormal levels of calcium can lead to a problem with your parathyroid gland, a malignancy, or problems with your kidneys, among others. The glucose in abnormal levels might indicate a potential problem with diabetes. While abnormal albumin, bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine transaminase (ALT), and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) can indicate that something is happening with your liver. Finally, the Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), tells if there is something wrong with your kidneys. Same as a CBC, these are just some examples of what CMP results can reveal about your health.
This test looks at your levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. It specifically gives you the levels of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). When the LDL levels are high, that can indicate a higher risk of heart disease.
Hemoglobin A1C (HgbA1C)
This test gives an average of how your blood sugar has been for the past three months. This can be useful to diagnose diabetes and follow up with blood sugar control. This test is not requested as part of a general exam for non-diabetic patients unless there is an abnormality with blood glucose level in the CMP.
Abnormal levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3) indicate that something is happening with your thyroid gland. Assessing these levels might lead to a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism, among others.
Your body needs Vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium, which is needed for healthy bones. Therefore, this is another important blood test to have. Abnormal levels of Vitamin D can lead, for example, to osteoporosis as a consequence of the low calcium levels.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)
This is an exclusive test for men. This test helps in the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
This test checks your urine. The appearance and contents in your urine can indicate if there are problems like infections, kidney stones, diabetes, kidney conditions, or can even point out a malignancy.
These are the main blood tests ordered as part of a general medical checkup. There are many other blood tests, but they are ordered on a case-by-case basis. Your doctor will determine which other lab is needed based on your medical history and current symptoms.
And as always, please stay healthy and come back for the next topic.
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