Lab tests and why they're important

Why are lab tests needed?

When your doctor says, “I’d like to run a couple of tests,” you may wonder what he or she is hoping to learn from samples of your blood or urine. Sometimes the doctor orders tests because of changes in your health or to help prevent future illness.

What are some examples of lab tests?

Blood tests

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

One typical blood test is a Complete Blood Count (CBC). From a small sample of your blood, this test can show signs of blood loss or low iron levels (anemia), infections, clotting problems, blood cancers, and immune system disorders.

Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP)

Another test, often run at the same time as the CBC, is the Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP). By measuring the different chemicals in the fluid part of your blood, this test provides information about your muscles, heart, liver, kidneys, and bones.

Lipid Panel

Other blood tests can focus on specific parts of your body and show signs of disease or blockages.

For example, a Lipid Panel is a blood test done to help determine your risk for heart disease. This test is more accurate if you have fasted for several hours. It will give information about your cholesterol levels and the amount of fat in your blood. Abnormal levels may also be signs of increased risk for stroke or clogged arteries in your neck, arms or legs (called peripheral vascular disease).

Testing blood sugar (glucose) level

Another test done after fasting is a Blood Sugar (glucose) level to screen for diabetes.

Hemoglobin A1C

A Hemoglobin A1C is another test for assessing blood sugar.

Urine samples

You may be asked to submit a urine sample during your exam visit. Because urine is the body’s means of flushing waste material from the bloodstream, it can be a good indicator of some signs of disease.

Rapid urine test

A rapid urine test involves immersing a test strip into the liquid and noting color changes on the strip. It can give indications of inflammation of the kidneys, unhealthy blood sugar levels, and bacterial infection in the bladder or kidneys.

Pregnancy test

Pregnancy tests that you purchase over the counter detect a special hormone in the urine that develops when a woman is pregnant. Your doctor’s office will use this type of test to determine if you are pregnant.

Urine samples and drug tests

Urine tests will also reveal drugs that you have used over recent days.

Follow up with your doctor after lab tests

Our advice is to follow up with your doctor’s orders for these tests. You can view your results on your electronic medical record, like MyChart, to see whether your levels fall within a normal range. 

Last reviewed: 
June 2017

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