Just last week I saw my endocrinologist. At this visit, it just happened to be that time of year. The time where they do all the laboratory tests to see if there are any issues that may be lurking just under the surface. Flying under my symptom radar so to speak. And so we did all the tests. We tested cholesterol levels, thyroid function, and urine. We did a metabolic panel and a CBC.
It used to take three days to get the results of these tests. I would have the blood drawn a few days before my visit to the doctor’s office and then we would discuss the results in that visit. Now, it takes a matter of hours and I had the results in my patient portal online by the next morning. Living in the digital age means that I can look at my health records online. Mostly it’s because my doctor’s office makes that possible since there are some medical offices that still don’t have an online patient portal. (I know, right?! Why haven’t they left the dark ages?) But being able to see those results doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily understand them. If you’ve ever seen the results of these tests, maybe you’ll understand what I mean when I say there are so many acronyms and numbers. It’s hard to tell what all these test results mean. Mostly, I tend to look at the results and compare my value to the standard range that is provided with the results. That’s really very handy. They place them side-by-side so it’s easy to see if my value is in the standard reference range. But what does that mean? Well, according to WebMD
“A reference range is determined by testing large groups of healthy people to find what is normal for that group.”
So, if your test results fall in that standard range it means that you compare to a large group of healthy people. And that’s pretty great. But what if you don’t? Should you panic? The answer is no. Chances are if you’re reading this then you’re probably living with diabetes. (Or maybe you know and love someone who is. If that is the case, thank you for your support!) And that means that your numbers may not be normal. And sometimes that’s okay.
The truth is all sorts of things can affect your lab results. Things like the medicines you are taking or if you’re under any stress. Even eating right before these tests can have some effect. You are probably really familiar with being asked to not have any food for at least 8 hours before these tests. (That’s my least favorite part!) If it happens that you have numbers outside the standard range, it may just be that the tests need to be repeated. However, if you see anything that worries you, then don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about it. They are the ones with the right information to fully interpret your test results and advise you on the things to do to address those numbers. They should be happy to explain everything to you. (If not, there may be a problem. But that’s another blog post for another time…)
If your numbers are like mine and in the standard reference range and you just want to know what that acronym means, then you can always Google it. The internet is a wealth of information right at your very own fingertips. But...that’s both good and bad. I say that because anyone could be posting information. So, if you’re going to go online looking for information try to remember to check the source of the information. I try to limit my searches to something like the Mayo Clinic since I know that they are a trusted health organization. And while I’ll look for information online, I never try to diagnose myself. And I certainly never try online treatments without discussing them with my doctor first. After all, my doctor is the one who knows me, my health history, and my current state of well-being. And all of those things play a big part in what those lab results mean.