Whether you are fifteen or fifty, depending on your lifestyle and family’s history of disease, you may be at increased risk for specific medical conditions or currently suffering from ailments without even being aware of the causes.
While proper nutrition and adequate physical activity are both important components of preventative health and maintaining a healthy body, there are other factors, both environmental and genetic, which affect our overall health. Since illnesses, diseases, and nutritional deficiencies can often exhibit similar symptoms, it can be difficult to determine what the exact cause of a specific problem is.
Whether you’ve displayed specific signs or symptoms of a disease and are looking to determine the cause, or simply want to assess your current state of health, the most reliable option for evaluating disease, deficiencies or illness is through medical diagnostic testing. There are a variety of testing methods and equipment used to diagnose specific medical ailments or conditions, each unique to the particular problem and affected body system.
The application of a ‘routine medical testing’, such as blood sampling, is typically for broad diagnostic purposes. For example if you are admitted to the emergency room with various symptoms of illness but no apparent cause, doctors will run a panel of tests and blood work to obtain a general profile of your health. Standard diagnostic tests are used as a baseline for medical practitioners to establish medical diagnosis. These tests are usually non-invasive or minimally invasive, involving biological samples testing using either blood or urine. There are however, other various diagnostic procedures used to identify and diagnose specific disease, illness, deficiencies or hampered organ and body function.
- Kidney Function: Involves a urinalysis diagnostic test for routine urine examination to identify abnormal cells, debris, bacterial infection, and bio-chemicals that are indicative of various illnesses. A urine culture can be created from the urine sample to grow a larger bacteria colony in a controlled laboratory environment to diagnose any bacterial urine infections.
- Skin Cancer Screening: Involves a semi-invasive procedure where physicans take biopsies (skin samples) of abnormally appearing growths or areas of the skin in order to detect cancerous cells, precancerous cells, infections, and other abnormal skin conditions. There are both needle biopsies, used to take a small sample of the area in interest to test, and more surgical procedures to remove tumors where abnormal areas of the skin are removed to test for cancer or other skin disease.
- Lung Function: The most important indicator of body oxygenation is Oxygen Saturation testing. This is an indication of how well your blood cells are transporting oxygen to the rest of your body i.e. organs, muscles etc. Your red blood cells must carry sufficient oxygen to your body tissues to you’re your alive. Normal O2 saturation is 95%-100%. Individuals with lung disease or other respiratory conditions will have either fewer red blood cell production or inhibited function resulting in decreased oxygen saturation
- Heart Function: Stress tests are among the best diagnostic tools for diagnosing heart disease, as well as a useful method for estimating the risk of developing heart disease in individuals with heightened risk factors such as hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol. In order to determine how efficient your heart function is, i.e. how hard your heart has to work to send blood to the rest of your body, physicians will implement a stress test, also known as a ‘treadmill test’ or ‘exercise tolerance test’. This measurement indicates if your heart is receiving enough blood flow and oxygen when working under stress, such as during exercise. Stress tests are often given to individuals experiencing chest pain or other symptoms of cardiovascular disease, based on previous medical examination and EKG monitoring. The test can also be used as a means for continual assessment during treatments for heart disease to gauge the safety of a prescribed exercise program.
- Cholesterol Testing & Lipids profile: is a simple blood test that assesses your high-density Lipoprotein levels (HDL) or ‘Good Cholesterol’, Low-density Lipoprotein level (LDL) or ‘Bad Cholesterol’ and total blood triglyceride levels (fat). Each of these are indicators of high cholesterol and fat which when elevated, are risk factors for various metabolic diseases and cardiovascular disease.
- Body / Cellular Inflammation: (Hs-CRP) testing through blood samples, measures C-reactive protein levels which when elevated are indicative of body inflammation. Inflammation doesn’t necessarily mean a swollen body, but is a general measure of disease due to bacterial, viral, fungal infections and general body stress due to a diseased state. For example, individuals with cancer often have elevated CRP levels due to the stress on their body cells.
- Liver function: Can be tested by examining the levels of specific enzymes that are indicative of liver damage. For example, ALT and AST are biomarkers of liver injury measured through blood testing. Both levels are elevated with damage to the liver and reduced liver function.
- Diabetes: A diabetic state is typically determined by blood glucose & insulin resistance testing. Both types of the disease will cause hampered insulin function. Type-I diabetes is a genetic disorder where the pancreatic beta-cells that create our bodies insulin are impaired. Due to the lack of functioning insulin, our body can’t take sugar from the blood to our organs and muscles to use as energy. With type-II diabetes, poor diet causes hampered insulin efficiency and a similar end effect. When specific conditions are concerned, such as inhibited blood flow due to capillary deterioration of the eyes, doctors can see changes in the blood vessels with a special test called fluorescein angiography. During this test, a chemical will temporarily make the blood vessels fluorescent to show any leaks. In terms of decreased eye function, the substance can be injected into an arm or hand while during an eye examination.
- Back/ Spine/ Nervous system: An MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a noninvasive technique used in visualizing different body tissues. An MRI of the spine can reveal any abnormalities in the vertebral discs, nerves, spinal cord, and surrounding back muscles. A benefit of MRI use is that it does emit any radiation. It functions by using radio waves, magnetic fields and computer processing to create in-depth images. MRI pictures are created from multiple segmented slides or slices, forming a cross-section of the area being viewed. Due to the spacing of the image slices, doctors get detailed representation of a particular area with the advantage of a scaled map.
- Bone Density/ Osteoporosis- Both men and women older than 50 will typically begin to lose bone thickness and density as they age. Exercise and various nutritional interventions and pharmaceutical treatments can help prevent and even restore bone loss. When bones are thin the condition is reffered to as osteopenia. When they are severely thin and structurally compromised the condition is called osteoporosis. A test called bone densitometry can use x-rays to determine the thickness and strength of your bones for diagnosis. There are different types of equipment and x-ray scanners such as dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and radiographic absorptiometry. However, there are also other methods that do not use x-rays such as quantitative ultrasound. These measurement are important because bone density tests provide a precise measure of whether you have osteopenia or osteoporosis.
- Gastro-Intestinal – To examine any upper GI disorder a barium swallow or upper GI series is performed. An x-ray test is used to examine the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. It can be useful for diagnosing G.I cancers, ulcers, narrowing of the esophagus, and some instances of inflammation in the intestine. Swallowing liquid barium allows for contrast on the x-rays. The barium temporarily coats the lining of the upper GI tract, making the outline of these organs visible on the x ray.
- Anemia & Vitamin Deficiencies: People with anemia have fewer red blood cells than normal. In vitamin related anemia, related to a lack of vitamin B-12 and folate, red blood cells appear large and underdeveloped. In advanced deficiencies, the other components of whole blood, white blood cells and platelets, appear abnormal under microscope inspection as well. Since Folate and vitamin B-12 deficiencies can exhibit similar symptoms, they are both measured simultaneously.