With Home Testing, Consumers Take Charge of Their Health

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Tests Available for Home Use

Home tests can be used to screen for, diagnose, or monitor disease. Although a few home tests must be prescribed by your doctor (for example, those that monitor blood-thinning medication), most are available over the counter (OTC) in local supermarkets or pharmacies or directly from manufacturers by Internet, phone, or mail order. Categories of tests cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for home use include those that measure:

  • cholesterol, for assessing risk of heart disease
  • hemoglobin, for anemia
  • glucose for monitoring diabetes
  • alcohol and the presence of illegal drugs or drugs of abuse
  • nicotine metabolites, urine test to assess smoking status
  • hCG, to screen for pregnancy
  • prothrombin time, for monitoring blood thinning and clotting
  • fecal occult blood, to screen for colorectal cancer
  • luteinizing hormone, to predict ovulation
  • sperm counts, to assess infertility
  • follicle stimulating hormone, to screen for menopause
  • urine dipsticks, for determining urinary tract infection

Some home tests, like those for pregnancy, produce immediate results. Others are sold as collection devices—you use the device to collect a specimen (for example, urine or stool) and then mail the device containing the sample to the laboratory for evaluation. For example, if you want to know if you’ve contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, you collect a small blood sample by pricking your finger at home and collecting a drop of blood on special filter paper that is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Home collection kits that are mailed to a laboratory for analysis include the following tests:

  • allergy testing for 10 common home allergens
  • antioxidant levels (urine lipid peroxide)
  • male and female hormone testing
  • high sensitivity CRP, to screen for heart disease
  • hepatitis C, to determine hepatitis infection
  • HIV-1 antibody, for determining HIV infection
  • microalbumin, to screen for kidney disease
  • hair, urine and salivary drugs of abuse testing
  • hair, to assess mineral and toxic element levels
  • performance and stress hormone levels of testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol
  • prostate specific antigen (PSA), to screen for prostate cancer
  • melatonin levels, to assess sleep
  • TSH for thyroid function
  • antibodies involved in celiac disease
  • paternity testing
  • blood typing

Test results are generally available within a week or two of mailing the specimen to the analyzing laboratory.

To search for information on a particular OTC test (by test name, manufacturer, or test type), visit the FDA’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Evaluation and Safety. Another FDA page, Currently Waived Analytes, provides links to a broad range of tests kits and devices, including those that have been cleared by the FDA for home use.

Other Useful Links
FDA: Home-Use Lab Tests
FDA: Home Diagnostic Tests: The Ultimate House Call?

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