Due to evolving technology, blood tests can now detect more health problems than ever before. They are being used to diagnose a variety of different diseases. These advancements have made it easy to catch diseases in their earliest stages. That makes getting treatment much easier and more effective. But, which medical issues can be diagnosed by testing blood?
Blood tests can be used for general evaluation. They let your doctors know how your body is functioning. Blood tests can even tell you how well many of your organs are working, as well as what might be wrong if you’ve been feeling sick.
For some people, blood tests are a regular occurrence. Some doctors encourage their patients to get their blood drawn yearly as a preventative health measure. Other times, a draw is recommended to test for specific diseases.
When it comes to diseases diagnosed by a blood test, the fact that we can now track these issues sooner than ever helps to save lives. The things testing can reveal about you can do everything from encouraging lifestyle changes to get you on the right track for disease prevention or treatment.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Can Be Found in a Blood Test?
- 1.1 How Often Should I Get a Blood Test?
- 1.2 What Are the Components of Blood?
- 1.3 What Are the Different Types of Blood Tests?
- 1.4 Can a Blood Test Detect Pregnancy?
- 1.5 Can a Blood Test Detect Cancer in the Body?
- 1.6 Can My Doctor Test for Prediabetes with a Blood Test?
- 1.7 Other Illnesses That Can be Found with a Blood Test
- 1.8 What Body Functions Can a Blood Test Track?
- 1.9 Can You Find Drugs in a Blood Test?
- 1.10 How Long Does It Take to Get Blood Test Results?
- 1.11 What Does an Abnormal Blood Test Result Mean?
- 1.12 Read Our Latest Posts:
What Can Be Found in a Blood Test?
So, what can blood tests detect? This guide will cover several of the most common conditions a blood test can reveal about your health. We’ll also help to define different types of blood tests you can receive.
Getting your blood drawn or a problem where the veins won’t pop up can be unnerving. But, it can help to keep you healthy, especially if it’s done regularly. The sooner you’re able to identify a specific health condition, the better chances you have of treating it effectively. It can help you do just that. You don’t have to be scared about the results or if they come back abnormal. Take comfort in knowing you’re proactive about your health.
Once you know some of the possible diseases a blood test can detect in your body, you may be more willing to get one. So, let’s dive into the different types of blood tests and what they can tell you about your health.
How Often Should I Get a Blood Test?
It usually isn’t necessary to get a full bloodwork panel during an annual physical. But, you can request one. Most people find that getting a yearly test is enough for most people. It can help to ensure you’re healthy and can allow you to catch any problems within the blood early on.
How often you get your blood drawn will depend on your age, family history of medical conditions, or history of your conditions. For example, someone in their twenties who has a normal test may not need to get rechecked for a few years. If something like high cholesterol or high blood sugar shows up, you may need to get one more often.
- Important: In your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond, you may need more frequent blood tests. This is because your doctor will probably start checking for more things. The older we get, the more at risk we become for specific conditions. Keeping tabs on your thyroid, cholesterol, and kidney function is imperative as we age.
A blood test only lasts a few minutes. Some might need you to fast ahead of time. But, for the most part, there isn’t much preparation for a blood test. After your blood is drawn, you’ll be able to put a bandage on the site of the needle and go about your business until you get the results. Never avoid a blood test because you’re scared or feel its inconvenient. It could potentially help to save your life.
What Are the Components of Blood?
Before you get a blood test, it’s a good idea to know more about the components of your blood. Doctors use these components to determine your general health. Each of these components should look a certain way and be present with a specific number. Abnormalities can help a doctor do everything from diagnosing disease to keep track of healing.
The main components of blood are as follows:
- Red blood cells – These transport oxygen throughout the body
- White blood cells – These help your immune system and fight off infections
- Plasma – The liquid part of your blood that houses the two cells
- Platelets – Platelets help your blood to clot
What Are the Different Types of Blood Tests?
Blood test names and meanings can be confusing at first. Not all tests are the same. It all depends on what your doctor ‘orders’ for you when it comes time to get your blood drawn.
The most common blood test your doctor can order are as follows:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Enzyme tests
- Chemistry tests
- Heart disease risk tests
A full blood count test is usually what you’ll get during a checkup. It is used as a preventative procedure. A complete blood count test can detect a lot of different illnesses. This includes cancers, anemia, and even problems with clotting and the immune system.
A CBC tests the following aspects of your blood:
- Red blood cells
- White blood cells
- Size of your red blood cells
Blood enzyme tests help to determine different chemical reactions in your body. This can help to diagnose if you’ve had a heart attack, or if specific muscles have been injured, etc.
Blood chemistry tests are also often referred to as metabolic panels. The test your blood glucose levels, calcium, electrolytes and your kidneys. These chemistry tests are used to measure different chemicals in your blood. They can give your doctor a lot of information about your muscles, kidneys, and even your bones.
A blood test that is used to determine your risk for heart disease focuses on your heart health. These tests can measure everything from your level of cholesterol to the fat in your blood.
Now that you know some of the most common types of blood tests let’s find out more about what these tests can detect within your body.
Can a Blood Test Detect Pregnancy?
Using a standard pregnancy test to determine if you’re pregnant can take up to two weeks after a missed period. Even then, there is no guarantee you’ll get accurate results. You may need to wait even longer to find out for sure if you’re going to have a baby or not.
One way to bypass the nerve-racking waiting game of a pregnancy test is to get a blood test. Blood tests can pick up on a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). It’s a hormone that occurs naturally in the body when a woman is pregnant. Getting your blood tested can detect levels of hCG much earlier than a urine test. In fact, it can pick up this hormone about 6-8 days after ovulation. Doctors use both a qualitative and quantitative blood test to detect levels of hCG. One detects whether the pregnancy hormone is present or not. The other measures the amount of that particular hormone in your blood.
If you’re anxious to find out if you’re pregnant or need to know for medical reasons, you can make an appointment with your doctor to get your blood drawn. Blood pregnancy tests tend to be more accurate early on than home pregnancy tests. But, you still may have to wait up to 48 hours to get your results, and without insurance, they can cost around $75. So, there are pros and cons to getting your blood drawn to determine if you’re pregnant. But, if you’re on pins and needles wanting to know the answer, it can be a great way to find out quickly.
Can a Blood Test Detect Cancer in the Body?
Diagnostic testing is the best way to catch cancer early on, so you can treat it. Many new blood tests can detect different types of cancer in the body. Because there are so many types of cancer, blood tests are essential for recognizing them as soon as possible. Thankfully, this is becoming more of a reality all the time, and more people are getting the treatment they need because of it.
The most common test or cancer is a complete blood count (CBC) test. A CBC can detect how many white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are in a sample of blood. That allows doctors to determine if your body is producing enough of each of these components. If you don’t have enough, it could be a sign that there is a foreign disease infecting your blood.
Blood cancers like leukemia are often first diagnosed through a blood test. Again, this can test abnormal amounts of cells. It can also give doctors a chance to look at the cells and see if they look misshapen at all.
Blood tests for cancer can also help to determine if the disease has spread to the bone marrow, which is another different type of cancer entirely.
The good news is that frequent blood tests performed on cancer patients can help doctors to track the progress and effectiveness of treatments. If you are diagnosed with cancer and start a treatment plan, getting your blood drawn periodically can keep track of how your blood cells are improving.
There is also tumor marker blood tests that can be performed to detect cancer in the body. These tests look for specific antigens within the body that can help them determine whether you might have a certain type of cancer.
Tumor marker tests can be used to detect the following types of cancer:
- Germ cell
It’s important to keep in mind that for most types of cancer, more tests are needed. It’s rare that your doctor will officially diagnose you with a type of cancer due to a blood test alone. But, it can be a good indicator that something is affecting your blood and can give doctors a place to start from when building a diagnosis.
Can My Doctor Test for Prediabetes with a Blood Test?
There are different ways to test for diabetes, but there are also usually symptoms that go along with this condition. Many people don’t experience symptoms if they have prediabetes, so they may not even realize they have it. A blood test can help to determine if you do, so you can get on the right track and avoid diabetes entirely.
Prediabetes means you have higher blood glucose levels than what is considered normal. But, they aren’t yet high enough to diagnose you with diabetes.
The most common blood tests doctors use to detect diabetes and prediabetes are as follows:
- A1C: This test measures the glucose level of your blood over a period of a few months. You don’t have to fast or change your lifestyle at all to get this test. It’s a way to track what’s naturally happening with your blood based on your daily habits.
- Fasting Plasma Glucose: An FPG test checks your blood glucose levels after you’ve fasted. Usually, you’ll need to keep from eating or drinking anything for at least 8 hours before the test.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: The OGTT is like a sped-up version of what an A1C might test. It takes two hours, and you’ll get your blood drawn twice. First, your glucose levels will be checked. Then, you’ll drink a sweet solution that shows your doctor how your body processes glucose. After two hours, your blood-glucose level will be tested again.
The good news about prediabetes is that it doesn’t always mean you’ll get diabetes. Since there are rarely any symptoms, getting your blood tested is a great way to determine if you might have this condition. Many people can get their glucose levels back to a healthy state and avoid diabetes. Things like lowering your body weight, cutting processed sugar from your diet or exercising can help.
Other Illnesses That Can be Found with a Blood Test
The number of diseases and conditions that can be determined by a blood test continues to grow. Many of them can be discovered by a CBC during your yearly physical. But, if you have pain or other unexplained symptoms, getting a blood test sooner rather than later can help to diagnose or rule out many conditions.
Some of the more common ones include:
- Anemia – Not enough healthy red blood cells. A CBC is usually the first test for anemia. The test will check out your hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is a protein that is full of iron. If your levels are low or it’s not getting through your bloodstream as it should, your iron levels can be low enough to make you anemic.
- Hepatitis B – This is a liver infection caused by a virus. In some cases, you can give hepatitis B to other people through your blood.
- Hepatitis C – This is a chronic liver infection caused by a virus. A blood test will test your liver function. If the virus has affected the liver for years, it’s a chronic condition.
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) – HSV is an infection that can cause sores in different areas of the body. It usually shows up in the genital area, or as cold sores around the lips and mouth.
- Cirrhosis – Cirrhosis is a liver disease that causes the liver to lose cells and become scarred. Over time, the liver can harden.
What Body Functions Can a Blood Test Track?
Blood tests do so much more than diagnose diseases. Like someone with prediabetes, sometimes doctors use them to track your progress with a condition. Or, they can warn you of a condition you may be at risk of getting.
For example, someone with a family history of high cholesterol might get their blood drawn and determine the level of fat in their blood is high. This isn’t a disease, but it lets that person know they should take steps to change their lifestyle and lower their triglycerides.
Some other typical bodily functions that can be tracked with a blood test are:
- Organ function
- Hemoglobin levels
- Kidney function
- Thyroid function
The fact that a simple blood test can check how well certain areas of the body are functioning is a great preventative tool for your health. That’s why it’s important to get regular blood tests and check-ups with your doctor. Sometimes, diseases can be prevented, or treatment can be started sooner before an illness becomes severe.
Can You Find Drugs in a Blood Test?
If you’ve ever had to take a drug test or employment, it was probably your urine that was tested instead of blood. But, blood tests can find certain drugs in your system.
They aren’t often used for employment because they don’t detect residue of the drugs as well as a urinalysis. For example, urine can detect marijuana in your system for up to 100 days. A blood test can only detect it for up to 7 days.
Some of the most common drugs that can be found in the body with a blood test include:
There are many reasons employers might want to test you for drugs. It could be a part of a pre-screening process. Or, they may want to do random drug tests to ensure the safety of everyone on the job.
Doctors may also test your blood for drugs or alcohol if you were to get in an accident or started acting/feeling strange. While a urinalysis continues to be the most popular method for drug testing, it’s possible through the blood as well.
How Long Does It Take to Get Blood Test Results?
How long it takes to get the results from your blood test depends on what type of test was performed. Often, it takes about 24 hours. But, certain tests can take a few days or even weeks. It usually depends on whether your blood sample needs to be sent elsewhere.
Some medical facilities have labs on site. In these cases, you’ll get your results faster. If your doctor has to send your sample somewhere else, it could take weeks to get a result. Your healthcare provider should be able to give you a more accurate idea of when you can expect results from your test.
You can also ask your doctor to call you when the results of your blood test come in, even if everything is normal and there’s nothing to worry about. It’s a good idea to have a strong understanding of what your blood says about your general health. Many healthcare providers offer online results that you can check at any time after a test.
Do Doctors Call with Blood Test Results?
Different results of a blood test need different types of delivery. If the test shows something bad or abnormal, your doctor will want to see you in person. But, visiting the doctor in person for results doesn’t always mean there is bad news. The results may be complicated or need an explanation. In these cases, your doctor may want to set up a follow-up appointment with you instead of giving you results over the phone.
If everything has come back completely normal, usually results can be given over the phone, online, or even through the mail. Keep in mind that some doctors will refuse to offer any blood test results (good or bad) through the phone.
They may suggest that it’s a violation of privacy laws. This isn’t true as long as they are confident they’re talking directly to the patient and not a family member, friend, answering machine, etc. So, if your doctor doesn’t want to give you test results that are neutral over the phone, you can let them know they’re speaking to the right person. You can make it clear you’d like the results if they don’t need more explaining.
Your doctor might prefer for you to come to their office to deliver any news about your blood test results. Even if it can be inconvenient, it’s not a bad idea for you to make an appointment to get the results in person, regardless of what they might say.
This will give you the opportunity to ask questions directly to your doctor. Blood tests can reveal a lot. If there is something you don’t understand or want more information about, it’s much easier to ask your doctor face-to-face than over the phone.
What Does an Abnormal Blood Test Result Mean?
Usually, when we hear the word positive, we think of something good. That isn’t always the case when it comes to blood tests. If you get a general blood test as part of your annual physical, you probably don’t want to hear that anything is positive. Why?
Positive is often another way to say abnormal when it comes to a blood test. Testing positive for certain molecular markers in your blood can be a bad thing.
Some of these molecular markers include things like:
- Sickle cell anemia
- Hepatitis C
- Specific genes that put you at risk for certain cancers
If the blood test discovers these disease markers, it’s considered a ‘positive’ test. But, it means there are abnormalities in your blood. You may have the disease, or you may have been exposed to it.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you had no other symptoms, a blood test is a great way to catch illnesses like this early on. Even if your doctor wants to discuss blood test results and tells you that you’ve tested positive for something, try to look on the bright side. You can start with a treatment plan that much sooner.
As you might expect, the word ‘negative’ isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to blood tests, either. A negative result on a blood test usually means nothing was detected that was abnormal. It might seem like a strange way of looking at things from how we usually do, but negative can be a good thing when you’re getting blood test results.
What if My Blood Test Results are Bad?
Abnormal blood tests don’t always mean you need to be concerned right away.
Many times, something as simple as a lifestyle change or specific medication may be able to fix the abnormality. If your blood test results take longer than about two minutes to explain, your doctor will probably want to see you face-to-face. If they end up delivering bad news, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s always better to have an official diagnosis than being left wondering.
If your blood test results show illness or disease, talk with your doctor right away about a treatment plan. The good thing about going over the results in person is you can start to set up a plan of action right then and there. Your doctor will undoubtedly give you your options and offer his opinion.
One thing to be aware of is that mistakes do happen on occasion. If a blood test determines you have a particular condition, don’t panic right away. It’s likely your doctor will want to run a second test to be sure it wasn’t a false-positive.
False negatives can also occur. If you’re experiencing negative symptoms, but your blood results were healthy, you may want to have another test done in a few days or weeks. Don’t assume that one blood test can give you a definitive answer if the results were abnormal.
Abnormal results can also be because of human error – including your own! For example, if you were supposed to fast before a blood test, but you ate something, it could alter the results. A perfect example of this is a glucose test for prediabetes.
Eating something beforehand may bump up your glucose levels, so you show signs of the condition. In reality, you may not have it. The best way to avoid these kinds of errors is to talk to your doctor. Make sure you know what you’re supposed to do before your blood draw to get the best results.
Normal Blood Test Results Can Differ
In this day and age where it’s easy to look everything up in an instant, we can psych ourselves out about a lot of things. It’s also easy to compare ourselves to others. This is never a good idea when it comes to blood test results.
If your results end up being different from your husband’s or wife’s, there’s a good reason for that. Normal results can differ between men and women. This includes a lot of different factors, including things like red blood cell count. Men typically have more red blood cells than women.
Your age can also be a factor in what a regular blood test looks like. A hemoglobin test can significantly vary by age. It’s always best to talk with your doctor about your results and not compare them to statistics or people of the opposite sex. Your doctor will be able to explain whether your results are normal.
Is It Important to Get Blood Tests Regularly?
How often you get blood tests depends on a few factors. But, when you’re past your twenties, you should aim to get a blood test at least once a year. Keep in mind that a blood test isn’t just used to detect diseases. It can help you keep track of your blood sugar, thyroid and so much more.
A blood test can show certain conditions within the body. But, it’s also a great preventative tool. If you’re on the brink of something like diabetes, you can make the changes needed to avoid it. You may not have known that without a blood test.
We hope this guide has been informative if you’ve been unsure about getting a blood test. You don’t need to wait to feel negative symptoms or think you might have a certain illness to get one. Getting a blood test is a proactive way to show you care about your health and well-being.