Last changed: 20/01/2023
Which Test Kits Should Be Regularly Taken?
Some self tests should be taken more regularly - think blood tests and annual tests for PSA or Cholesterol. See which tests we think you shoudl be looking to get annually.
Many of us will turn to a self-test to address an immediate health problem or in response to a symptom. So we may for example take an iron level test if we are feeling particularly fatigued but there are some self-tests that we may want to use on a more regular basis. Here we explore some of those tests.
The Benefits of Routine Self-Testing
One of the key benefits of self-testing on a regular basis is that you can keep on top of your health and take preventative action before things get too serious. So for example if you know that you have an iron deficiency from a test, then you can adjust your diet accordingly before more serious health complications are caused.
Self-Testing Alongside Annual Health Checks
It is always good practise to also have an annual health check. Some employers may offer you this as part of a private company healthcare scheme. If this is not available to you then you could ask your GP, although current pressures on the NHS may preclude this. If it is possible then it is good practise to annually check for example your weight, height, blood pressure, diet and an examination of your eyes, ears, mouth etc. Again this is a good way to keep on top of things, raise any concerns you may have and discover an issue before it becomes critical.
Regular Self Testing - Cholesterol
One of the self-tests you may want to look at on a regur basis is a cholesterol self-test. This is because if you have high cholesterol, you may be completely unaware of it. It is sometimes associated with being overweight, but you can have high cholesterol even if you are slim and active.
Cholesterol itself is a type of blood fat, we all need a certain amount of it but too much can cause health problems. High cholesterol can be caused by your genes, You may have a family history of high cholesterol. This is known as familial hypercholesterolaemia. Or you may suffer from it due to a poor diet-eating too much saturated fat, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and poor levels of exercise. You will only know this from taking a blood test. If you carry on with high cholesterol, then you can experience serious problems like a stroke or heart attack as high cholesterol can block your blood vessels.
Home test kits for cholesterol are simple to administer, they just requite a blood sample from your finger. Your blood will then be assessed for triglycerides, cholesterol, and lipoproteins. If your cholesterol is deemed to be high then you will be advised to change your diet and lifestyle, or you may be given medicines to lower your cholesterol. Either way the key is to know first of all if you are suffering from high cholesterol and the only way to know that is to test your blood.
Regular Self Testing - Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition which causes your blood glucose level to be too high. This can be due to you not producing enough insulin, or the insulin you do produce is not effective. There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes means you don’t make any insulin at all, type 2 diabetes means your insulin doesn’t work effectively.
If left undiagnosed then diabetes can cause you serious problems including affecting your heart, eyes, feet and kidneys. One in 15 people in the UK have diabetes. It is estimated that 1 million people have type 2 diabetes but are not diagnosed. Type 1 diabetes can be detected in older people, but it tends to be spotted early and affects children mostly, but type 2 diabetes symptoms can be easier to miss because they appear more slowly.
You may therefore look at a self-test for diabetes which will determine your risk of diabetes. Most tests rely on a small prick of blood from your finger and will measure the % of Hemoglobin A1c, this can indicate if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Again this is an example of regularly testing your blood as you may be unaware that you are developing type 2 diabetes.
Regular Self Testing- Sexual Health
It is advised that if you are sexually active and particularly if you have multiple partners then it is sensible to check your sexual health regularly. The key point here is that many sexually transmitted infections (STI’s)show little symptoms so you may not realise anything is wrong. Yet many sexual infections can, if left untreated, cause serious health issues hence the importance of regular testing.
So if you are in a group of people with a higher risk of a STI-sex workers, aged 15-24, men who have sex with men, women or men with multiple casual partners then you are advised to get regular testing. The general rule is to get tested every time you change partners, or once a year would be a good. However if you are a man who has sex with men, and you are having condomless sex with casual partners you should test for HIV and STI’s every three months. You may also want to get tested if you’ve had unprotected sex with a partner that you discover has an STI or you suspect might have an STI.
STis can present with no symptoms but there are some symptoms that can point to an STI, this includes unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, pain when urinating, and lumps around the genitals and anus.
The advantage of home STI testing is that you can get tests that will test for a range of STI’s as it can be hard to know which one to test for and they can be carried out in the privacy of your own home to avoid any embarrassment you may feel. The key here is to test regularly so that you can, if possible, be treated. Chlamydia is useful to mention here as it is one of the most common STI’s, it is usually asymptomatic but is curable yet if left can cause so much harm to the body.