There are many reasons why it’s beneficial for your health to get a blood test, however, doing a blood test is frightening for some people.
It is estimated that nearly a quarter of adults are afraid or made anxious by the thought of needles. Some adults even use their fear of needles to excuse missing vaccinations and routine or follow-up medical appointments and procedures, such as getting blood drawn.
Getting blood drawn for the purpose of a blood test might not be the most pleasant experience, but it’s perfectly safe, there are little to no risks and very few side effects, apart from bruising and minor pain or discomfort. Getting bloodwork done is a useful and necessary procedure that can tell you (and, more importantly, your doctor) important information regarding your health.
A blood test can tell you a lot about yourself, and knowledge is power.
Blood tests add an additional layer of information that allow professionals to properly examine your health.
With that in mind, let’s take a more in-depth look at what blood tests are used for, what a blood test can tell you about your health, and why you should get a blood test.
Why Should I Get a Blood Test? Do I Need One?
A blood test is a routine part of many physical examinations. This typical blood test is called a complete blood count, or CBC in medical jargon, and it evaluates the health of your blood cells, specifically your red and white blood cell count and your platelet count. Any deviations of a ‘normal’ count can signal the doctors to further investigate your health. In addition, a complete blood count can alert your doctor to a previously unknown health condition such as anaemia.
Blood is usually tested regardless of the symptoms present; if you’re feeling unwell, a lot can be determined, or, indeed, ruled out, simply by testing your blood.
However, a CBC is not the only kind of blood test, and doctors might order specific blood tests depending on the symptoms a patient presents with; a lipoprotein panel test is a blood test that specifically tests cholesterol and triglycerides, for example.
In addition to the lipoprotein test and a complete blood count, there are two other common types of blood tests: a basic metabolic panel and a blood enzyme test.
A basic metabolic panel is actually eight tests in one and provides your doctor with information regarding the health and efficacy of your metabolism. Otherwise called a blood chemistry test, it measures your glucose and calcium levels, the balance of electrolytes and the function of your kidneys.
Finally, enzyme tests are used to measure a specific enzyme level in your body. There are many kinds of enzyme tests and each one analyzes different enzyme levels. The type of enzyme test being ordered will depend on the symptoms you’re presenting with.
Discover Food Allergies and Food Intolerances
Skin tests are often the preferred method of testing for allergies, but conditions such as dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis can make these skin tests a very painful and less effective process. Additionally, some medicines such as antihistamines and antidepressants can interfere with skin test results.
Fortunately, a number of allergies can be determined through a blood test. Pharmacist Joseph Kennedy of Consumer’s Health Report explains:
Kennedy adds, “Allergy blood tests are one of the most recent advances in blood testing technology; they work by measuring the amount of allergen-specific antibodies that are produced by your body and found in the blood when you come in contact with an allergen. Once the body is triggered by the allergen to produce antibodies, the antibodies then communicate with your body to release histamine and other chemicals that cause the allergy symptoms.” It should be noted that this is true for the IgE type of antibodies.
Kennedy adds, “These blood tests are able to screen over 20 common allergens which include plants, mould, dust, pet hair and even some can detect and help diagnose food allergies. Allergies can cause an increase in certain types of white blood cells. Blood tests to check your white blood cell counts, including a count of a type of white cell called an eosinophil, may also be done if your doctor thinks you have allergies. However, it is important to keep in mind that many other health conditions can cause an increase in white blood cells.” As a reminder, note that allergy tests in the form of blood tests will be looking for IGE antibodies. Other allergy tests will be done via a skin prick test and finally confirmed via an oral food challenge.
However, this kind of testing is often used to help identify allergies. Since food intolerances prompt your body to produce antibodies, there is no way to use blood tests to determine all intolerances. You can read more about the differences between allergies and intolerances here. But if you want to find out what your food sensitivities are, Circle SnapShot Food Sensitivity Test will help.
Therapeutic Drug Monitoring
When a patient begins a long-term medication regimen, frequent blood testing is typical to monitor for efficacy as well as possible side effects.
“All medications have side effects” according to Dr. Polston, a medical advisor at Impakt Fitness. “Some medications may affect your liver, kidney, or heart function. For example, doctors [perform liver enzyme tests] to verify that the drug is not harming the liver.”
If you are taking blood thinners, which some people require to treat heart conditions, your doctor will want to monitor your blood’s ability to clot, since blood thinners prevent platelets from sticking together. You might also undergo a coagulation test before surgery or if your doctor suspects that you are at an increased risk of forming a clot in your heart, lungs or brain.
Your doctor will also check whether or not the medication being delivered is doing its job and that the dosage is effective. “They check drug levels to ensure your medication dose is within the therapeutic range,” says Dr Polston. “Too high or too low a dose can be harmful.”
Get a Blood Test to Evaluate the Health of Your Organs
Blood tests can help medical practitioners see how well an organ is working in your body. Your liver, kidneys and heart are three major organs whose health can be determined by a blood test.
Remember the lipoprotein panel? This is not a routine test and is commonly ordered when a doctor wants to establish a patient’s risk of having a heart attack, stroke or another cardiac episode. It measures a patient’s good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) total cholesterol, as well as their total cholesterol levels and the level of triglycerides (fat) in their blood.
Measuring your blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine levels can provide information in regards to the health of your kidneys. Meanwhile, high levels of alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin, among others, can indicate problems with the liver.
There are a number of other chemicals and proteins found in your blood that can give doctors clues as to the health of your organs. You can read more about these chemicals here.
In addition to all the previously mentioned benefits blood tests provide, doctors may soon be able to easily test your blood for some cancers.
Up until now, medical professionals obtain tissue samples, usually by means of surgery, to test for cancer. Tissue sampling has also been the go-to method for evaluating how well a treatment is working.
However, a new type of blood test referred to as a ‘liquid biopsy’ is being celebrated as a less invasive and more accurate means of detecting certain types of cancers.
Back in 2018, a study published in Nature explained how testing a patient’s blood for specific protein markers and genetic mutations associated with cancer was helping researchers detect cancer earlier than traditional methods before the tumour had a chance to metastasize.
This is very promising research, especially with more aggressive cancers associated with rapidly growing tumours, such as pancreatic or lung cancers since early detection significantly increases survival rates.
At first, liquid biopsies could only be used to test for mutations in certain genes, but early into 2021, the FDA approved liquid biopsies that could test multiple genes for mutations.
While this is still a relatively new area of research, the results so far have been promising and opened many doors in the areas of cancer research, prevention and treatment.
Besides a blood test, a CircleDNA test can also tell you a lot about your health, which may help your doctor evaluate your blood test results.