Home health tests caution

April 10, 2012 8:15:36 PM PDT
Do-it-yourself medical tests are becoming more popular. They let patients test for a slew of ailments from high cholesterol to hypertension, all in the comfort of home.

Glucose kits to manage diabetes at home are useful. So are blood pressure monitors, and doctors encourage people with hypertension or borderline hypertension to use them.

But Consumer Reports On Health newsletter says that other tests could lead you astray, including a kit that lets women know that menopause is under way. Women in their late 40s and 50s might interpret those results to mean they no longer need birth control, and that could result in an unwanted pregnancy.

Other home tests have questionable value, including those that screen for high cholesterol levels. The tests measure total cholesterol, but you still need a doctor to interpret the results for you and to tell you what to do about it.

And you might need to consult your physician with a test that can detect a urinary-tract infection. If you get a positive result, you'll need a prescription. You really have to know in advance whether your doctor will prescribe over the phone. Many are not willing to do that.

Consumer Reports On Health says another home test you can skip is one that looks for early signs of heart disease. It detects a marker called c-reactive protein. The problem is that the tests can be difficult to read and haven't been proven to be effective.

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