Do-It-Yourself medical tests are becoming more popular. They let patients test for a slew of ailments from high cholesterol to hypertension-all in the comfort of home.
Consumer Reports On Health newsletter says while some at-home tests can be very helpful, others aren't a good idea.
Stephanie Paulmeno takes a blood glucose reading every day. It's the key to controlling her diabetes.
Paulmeno says, "I think that the home tests are so important because it gives you an opportunity to see how you're regulating your own blood sugar."
Glucose kits to manage diabetes at home are useful. So are blood-pressure monitors, and doctors encourage people with hypertension or borderline hypertension to use them.
But Consumer Reports says other tests could lead you astray-like a kit to let women know menopause is under way.
Dr. Marvin Lipman of Consumer Reports says, "Women in their late 40s and 50s might interpret those results to mean they no longer need birth control, and that could result in an unwanted pregnancy."
Other home tests have questionable value, including ones that screen for high cholesterol levels.
Dr. Lipman says, "These tests measure total cholesterol, but you still need a doctor to interpret the results for you, and to tell you what to do about it."
And you may need to consult your physician with this test, too. It will uncover a urinary-tract infection, but you need a prescription if you get a positive result.
Dr. Lipman says, "You really have to know in advance whether your doctor is willing to prescribe over the phone. Many are not willing to do that."
Stephanie Paulmeno touches base with her doctor regularly. Even when at-home tests are recommended, they're not a replacement for professional medical care.
Consumer Report On Health says another home test you can skip is one that looks for early signs of heart disease.
It detects a marker called c-reactive protein.
The problem is, the tests can be hard to read and haven't proven to be effective.