Disease Testing Tips

Read these 10 Disease Testing Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Health Screenings tips and hundreds of other topics.

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What is a colonoscopy and do I need one?

Colonoscopy Recommended For People Over 50

If you are over the age of 50, your doctor will probably recommend a colonoscopy. This procedure allows doctors to view the entire colon, an organ that can be up to six feet long. During the colonoscopy, doctors will remove suspicious tissue for biopsy and will also look for signs of colon cancer.

To prepare for the procedure, your doctor will prescribe a low fiber or clear fluid diet. This is to begin clearing the colon of solid matter. On the day prior to the colonoscopy, you will need to take a prescribed laxative and drink large amounts of fluid.

The colonoscopy is performed in a hospital or clinic, and since light sedation is administered, you will need someone to drive you home afterward. Once you have been sedated, the flexible endoscope is passed into the anus and up into the colon. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and allows your doctor to view the colon, take biopsies and inject medication if necessary.

If your results are normal, you probably won't need to schedule your next colonoscopy for another five to 10 years.

What are some tests for heart disease?

Tests For Detecting Heart Disease Numerous and Sophisticated

The tests available to screen for heart disease are numerous and varied in their complexity. Deciding which tests are needed will depend on a number of factors, among them your medical history, your symptoms and your risk factors for heart disease.

Of course, most doctors will start with the least complicated tests first. If they are unable to make a diagnosis using these tests, more complex procedures may be utilized. Still, many tests for heart disease are non-invasive and have a short recovery time.

Some Noninvasive tests

* Resting electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – Measures and records heart activity

* Chest X-ray – Provides an image of the heart

* Holter monitor- Records any irregularities in heart beat over 24 hours

* Echocardiogram- Ultrasound returns live images of the heart at work

* Exercise stress test – Observes the heart's function at maximum heart rate

Other common imaging tests

* Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)- A probe placed in the esophagus uses sound waves to record high quality images of the heart at work.

* Cardiac catheterization- A catheter is inserted into a blood vessel. The physician then guides the catheter through the heart and its blood vessels to evaluate function.

What is osteoporosis and when do I need to be tested?

Women Over 50 Should be Tested For Osteoporosis

One of the most common health problems in women over 50 is osteoporosis. This disease makes bones brittle and more prone to breakage by destroying tissue in the bones. Some treatment is available for osteoporosis; however, prevention is the best cure. By getting regular exercise, drinking milk, eating a healthy diet and taking calcium supplements, you are helping your body work against osteoporosis. While complete prevention may not be possible, the more you do to help your body, the happier your bones will be.

Two tests are commonly used to screen for osteoporosis.

DEXA Scan (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) - The DEXA scanner uses two different types of x-rays to examine the bones, typically the lower spine or hip. Then, a radiation detector is waved over the lower body. A computer uses the images produced to measure bone density by examining how much radiation the bone absorbed. A denser bone will take in more radiation. While the mention of absorbing radiation can be frightening, the radiation exposure to the patient in a DEXA scan is less than that in a chest x-ray.

Quantitative Ultrasound (QUS) – This test measures bone density in the heel. If this ultrasound shows bone loss, the patient would then have a DEXA scan to determine the extent.


Health Risk Assessment: Evaluating Your Risk for Hypertension

High blood pressure increases your risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. High blood pressure is also linked to diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 (one twenty over eighty) or less. The first number, 120, is the systolic blood pressure—the peak blood pressure when the blood is rushing out of the heart. The second number, 80, is the diastolic blood pressure—the pressure when blood is rushing into the heart. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. If you are between 120/80 and 140/90 you are considered borderline or prehypertension. There aren't really symptoms to high blood pressure. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly by a health care provider.
Simple lifestyle changes can cure high blood pressure or help control high blood pressure such as:
• Losing weight if you are overweight
• Exercising regularly
• Eating healthy meals (especially more fruits and vegetables)
• Lowering your cholesterol
• Decreasing stress
• Avoiding salt, caffeine and alcohol
• Avoiding tobacco products and quitting smoking


Lab Tests for West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus, first identified in the U.S. in 1999, is a disease spread by mosquitoes. Most people who get WNV have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, but a small percentage of people will have severe symptoms. This usually happens in people over 50, young children, or immune compromised individuals. When someone is sick from WNV they may not know they have the disease. If you have concerns about WNV see your doctor right away. Your doctor will take a health history then order tests. First, your doctor may order blood tests or test your cerebrospinal fluid to screen for West Nile Virus. These blood tests screen for the flavivirus (the virus that causes WNV disease) and include:
• ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay)
• HI assay
• IFA (indirect immunofluorescent antibody)

Your doctor will ask a series of questions including: your travel history, when you began having symptoms, unusual health conditions, and state and county of residence. S/he will make a diagnosis and submit this information with the lab test. Next, your doctor will ask for a confirmatory test to rule out similar diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE), and Japanese Encephalitis (JE).

What kind of tests are available to determine if I have Lyme disease?

Lyme Disease Testing

With incidents of Lyme disease on the rise, it's critical to know how to recognize the symptoms and what to do when you spot them. Most commonly transmitted by the deer tick, Lyme disease often causes a trademark bull's eye rash, called erythema migrans. Though Lyme disease testing can be helpful in the diagnosis, it is not always necessary. If the patient is not showing any symptoms of Lyme disease, testing is not recommended.

Both tests for Lyme disease are blood tests and can be done using the same blood sample.

ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunoassay) or IFA (Immunofluorescence) tests- These tests are highly sensitive and look for antibodies to the disease. Thus, most people who have Lyme disease will test positive. The sensitive nature of this test does result in some false positives, meaning people who don't have Lyme disease test positive for it, but further testing can correct the result.

Western Blot Test-The Center for Disease Control advises running a Western blot test only after ELISA or IFA tests. The Western blot also searches for specific antibodies to Lyme disease. If these are found, the person is truly infected.

What are the common and STDs and how are they diagnosed?

Sexually Transmitted Disease Testing Important to Overall Health

If you have ever been sexually active, then you are at risk for a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The more sexual partners you have had, the higher your risk.

While there are many types of STDs, there are also reliable tests to determine whether or not you have one. Sexually transmitted disease testing and diagnosis is vital to maintaining your reproductive and overall good health.

Some common STDs and their tests are listed below.

Chlamydia – For women, your doctor will take a cervical swab. For men, your doctor will take a urine or urethral swab.

Gonorrhea - For women, your doctor will take a cervical swab. For men, your doctor will take a urethral swab.

Syphilis – Blood test

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection – Blood test

Genital HPV (Human papillomavirus) infection – For women, yearly Pap tests will diagnose any atypical cells. Further testing would be done to determine if HPV is responsible. For men, there is no similar HPV test available.

Genital Herpes simplex – If herpes is active, a culture is taken and examined under a microscope. If it is not active, a blood test will be performed.

Hepatitis B – Blood test

Hepatitis C – Blood test

What is a mental health screening and how would I get one?

Mental Health Screenings Promote Overall Good Health

With so much focus on maintaining our good physical health, it's easy to forget how vitally important it is to maintain our good mental health. Neglecting your mental health can lead to a myriad of problems, including damage to your physical health.

Years ago, mental health issues weren't discussed, for fear of being labeled crazy or unstable. Today, however, the stigma attached to mental health problems is lessening as education increases.

National Depression Screening Day® (NDSD), held in October, came into being 15 years ago to raise awareness of depression and related issues, and provide screenings for these issues. Today, the NDSD organization works with communities across the country to provide convenient mental health screening sites.

Their screenings focus on four common mental disorders: depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Do I need a mammogram?

If You Are a Woman Over 40, Get a Mammogram

Few tools in the medical arsenal are as important for detecting breast cancer as the mammogram. The mammogram has been available for about 30 years and is a simple x-ray of breast tissue. Both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute recommend yearly mammograms for all women over 40.

While mammograms aren't able to detect all incidents of breast cancer, they can often find a cancer hidden deep in the breast that a woman cannot feel during her self exams.

The radiation exposure in a typical mammogram is quite low. During the procedure, the breast is compressed between two plates and photographed. While this compression is generally not comfortable, the flattening helps provide better images.

Digital mammography is also becoming more common. While it is still the exception, digital images allow the doctor to zero in on a certain area of the breast. Film images, however, are currently better for clarity than digital images.

How do I get access to free health screenings?

Free Health Screenings Often Available Locally

Your doctor or community hospital may offer free health screenings for many conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The best way to learn when these screenings are available is to call the non-emergency number for your local hospital, visit their Web site or check your newspaper's events section.

If you have a condition you'd like to know more about before seeing your physician, you have several online options for obtaining information. These Web sites, however, are only for informational purposes. It is recommended that you visit your doctor for final diagnosis.

* MyElectronicMD.com offers a free health screening section, separated into easy steps, which can give you possible conditions based on the symptoms you're having.

* WebMD.com offers an interactive symptom checker that describes possible health risks associated with the symptoms you describe. It will also advise you on how soon to see your doctor about your symptoms.

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Byron White