Lab tests and disease screenings historically involve making a doctor's appointment, enduring a couple hours in a clinic and waiting weeks to find out your results. Direct-to-consumer health companies have changed that with mail-order kits that test for everything from Celiac disease to nutrient deficiencies, all with only a finger prick or a saliva sample.
You can test an entire hormone panel to discover the cause behind chronic symptoms -- like daytime fatigue, digestive issues and headaches -- or test for a single compound, such as hbA1c for diabetes.
While you shouldn't use these at-home health tests as a diagnostic tool alone, they can help youif you get negative results -- or spark an informed discussion with your primary care physician if you get positive results.
Remember that these at-home health tests aren't perfect, but the results you get can give you insight to a health concern you've been struggling with. For example, if you've been battling poor sleep and digestive issues, you might have a food intolerance. An at-home allergen-specific test can be the first step in modifying your diet or seeking treatment from a nutrition professional.
With that, we round up eight of the best at-home diagnostic tests for different health concerns.
Modern Fertility was born when founders Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy decided that fertility testing wasn't accessible enough: Federal insurance plans don't cover fertility testing at all, and most private plans are only covered by insurance after you've tried and failed to become pregnant for at least one year.
The Modern Fertility test involves a simple finger prick, and it tests for eight key hormones that affect fertility and pregnancy. There are a handful of female fertility tests on the market, but Modern Fertility is the only one to give you what's called a Fertility Measurement Index (FEMI) that you can use to track your fertility over time using your initial test results -- instead of testing over and over again.
Chances are you know at least one person who eats a gluten-free diet, whether they have a diagnosed gluten allergy or not. Many people have health concerns about gluten ranging from minor sensitivities to full-blown Celiac disease.
If you suspect you have Celiac disease, the Imaware Celiac Disease Screening Test is a good place to start -- the kit tests for an antibody called tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibody, or tTG-IgA. This enzyme repairs damaged tissues in your body, but people with Celiac disease often make antibodies that destroy tTG-IgA.
At $99, this at-home Celiac screening is likely to be less expensive than visiting a doctor for a Celiac test, depending on your insurance. If you get positive results, you can follow up with a physician. The only caveat -- you'll need to consume gluten regularly leading up to the test, so if you typically have a negative response to foods with gluten, you might endure a few uncomfortable days.
If you often find yourself keeling over and battling cramps after meals -- or dealing with less severe symptoms such as chronic fatigue and joint aches -- you might have food sensitivities to something you eat on a regular basis.
Check for 240 food items with the Test My Allergy Core Test, an allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) test. Your body makes IgE antibodies to protect your organs and tissues from viruses, bacteria and allergens -- they look different depending on what they are reacting to, which is how an allergen-specific IgE test can pinpoint what you're allergic to.
Note that you may be better off with a general IgE test that Test My Allergy also offers, which measures the overall level of IgE antibodies in your blood. This is because a high percentage of allergen-specific IgE tests for food intolerances can yield false positives. If you get positive results on either type of at-home test, you should take the results to your primary care doctor for further discussion.
No one enjoys talking about their sexual health, even with a doctor, when things go wrong. If you think you might have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), an at-home test can be a less awkward first step to getting treated.
The Complete 10 kit by LetsGetChecked tests for the 10 most common sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis. For this test, you'll collect both a blood and urine sample and mail them back on the same day.
If you get positive results for any infection, see a doctor right away to begin treatment. Also, remember that many STDs don't show any symptoms, so don't rely on symptoms as a sign that you need to get tested: If you're at all suspicious, talk to your partner about the possibility of an infection.
The Everlywell Men's Health Test checks for levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), free testosterone and estradiol, four key hormones that can affect mood, weight and muscle mass, energy and libido in men.
Collect a saliva sample shortly after you wake up and mail the sample back to Everlywell the same day. You'll get a personalized, physician-reviewed report of your levels of each hormone and how those hormones relate to your current symptoms -- if you've been feeling chronically tired and weak or experiencing a low sex drive, for example, this test can help pinpoint what's wrong.
Via a finger prick and saliva sample, the Everlywell Women's Health Test checks for 10 hormones thought to affect energy, mood, weight, fertility, sex drive, sleep, skin health, muscle and joint health, headaches, bloating and indigestion, hair health and more in women.
At $399, it's not a cheap kit, but it could help you discover if wacky hormone levels are the culprit behind your daily fatigue, poor concentration or other symptoms. And a full hormone panel at a doctor's office might cost you upwards of $1,000 depending on your insurance.
When your report comes back with information about your hormones and what the detected levels mean, you can decide whether it's worth seeing a professional about your symptoms in person.
Hormones aren't the only things that can cause seemingly unexplained fatigue, disturbed sleep, low libido or poor productivity. If you aren't getting enough essential vitamins and minerals from your food, nutrient deficiencies can spur those same symptoms.
This Nutritional Deficiency Test from 5Strands looks for 115 nutrients with a hair analysis, an incredibly accurate method of testing often used for DNA and drug tests. You'll find out if you're deficient in any amino acids, fatty acids, trace minerals and vitamins, as well as certain hormones (like melatonin) and compounds that affect your metabolism.
This comprehensive at-home hormone panel tests for five hormones, but what's more interesting is that it tests for your cortisol levels in the morning, afternoon, evening and night. Cortisol is often called the "stress hormone" because of its known role in physiological stress -- cortisol surges when you undergo a fight-or-flight response, but it's also important for exercise responses, controlling blood sugar, regulating your metabolism and balancing inflammation.
Cortisol naturally fluctuates throughout the day, but if you have unexplained symptoms at certain times during the day or night, the HealthConfirm Hormone Vitality Complete test can help uncover the cause. For example, cortisol levels should naturally reduce to their lowest at night. If you can't sleep -- and you know it's not caused by too much blue light or other sleep-disturber -- unusually high nighttime cortisol could be the offender.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.