Minimally invasive sampling and the accuracy of results enables various women’s home health tests to be accessible, convenient, and effective.
At-home health tests for women allow the monitoring of specific health needs from the comfort of your own home. Testing kits allow women to assess their risk levels for conditions such as infertility, thyroid dysfunction, and cervical cancer, as well as diagnose sexually transmitted infections and iron deficiency.
1. Female fertility hormones
Reproduction is controlled by hormones, which are the chemical messengers of the body. Hormonal balance is extremely important for regular monthly ovulation and preparation for embryo implantation in the uterus. A hormonal imbalance can be caused by an underlying medical condition or lifestyle factors, such as stress, diet, an unhealthy body weight, coffee intake, or excessive exercise.
Inadequate release of female fertility hormones can reduce fertility. Infertility is identified as the inability to conceive but also includes reproductive problems that can lead to miscarriages and stillbirths. Studies show that infertility affects around 30% of women in the United States. However, the majority of cases are treatable with hormonal therapy.
A female hormone finger prick test establishes the fertility status of women by checking the levels of several vital hormones, including follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, prolactin, and estradiol.
- Follicle stimulating hormone promotes the maturation of follicles; an increase in the levels of this hormone suggests that fewer good quality eggs are being produced.
- Luteinizing hormone works in combination with follicle stimulating hormone to stimulate ovulation by causing the dominant follicle to burst and consequently releases the eggs into the fallopian tube. High levels of luteinizing hormone indicate absent or defective ovaries, whereas low levels can reveal issues in the pituitary gland or anorexia.
- The pituitary hormone prolactin is necessary for breast milk production after giving birth. During pregnancy, increased levels of prolactin can block ovulation by reducing the secretion of both follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
- Estradiol is responsible for the development of female sex organs including the uterus and fallopian tubes. Estradiol levels are known to decrease on the approach to menopause, which usually occurs around age 50.
2. Thyroid function
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces the hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine to regulate metabolism. Its function is controlled by the pituitary gland, which secretes thyroid stimulating hormone to monitor the production of triiodothyronine and thyroxine.
Disorders of the thyroid can include thyroid dysfunctions (hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism) and autoimmune thyroid diseases. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland include heat intolerance, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, and weight loss, whereas an underactive thyroid gland causes intolerance to the cold, dry skin, a slow pulse, and weight gain. Autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto thyroiditis and Grave’s disease, are more likely to reach advanced stages in females than in males.
According to the American Heart Association, thyroid problems are associated with heart disease, leading them to issue guidelines for the testing of thyroid hormone levels in all heart failure patients.
At-home health tests for thyroid function are suitable for individuals showing symptoms, with a family history of thyroid disease or with an autoimmune disorder. A thyroid antibody finger prick test assesses the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone, free thyroxine, triiodothyronine, thyroglobulin antibodies, thyroid peroxidase antibodies, and thyroxine. The presence of thyroglobulin or thyroid peroxidase antibodies can reveal thyroid damage caused by an autoimmune disorder.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in both men and women as the global risk of infection at least once in a lifetime is 50%. Although the infection is generally cured by the immune system and the main strains of HPV (16 and 18) are preventable by vaccination, there is a strong association between HPV and cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. The American Cancer Society has confirmed that cervical cancer rarely develops in women who have been getting regular screening tests and pap smears before the age of 65.
A cervical swab test will help detect high risk strains for cervical cancer. This is important in the diagnosis or treatment of cervical infection since HPV is symptomless. It has been established that early detection and prompt treatment of HPV in pre-cancerous cervical lesions can prevent progression to cancer.
4. Sexual health
Unsafe sexual behaviour can result in sexually transmitted infections. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 1 million new infections are obtained every day. Most sexually transmitted infections are asymptomatic, so early detection and treatment is critical to avoid long term effects. If untreated, these infections can lead to critical health conditions including infertility and cancer.
A physical exam can be carried out by a health professional to detect symptoms of sexually transmitted infections, such as sores or bumps. Home tests for sexual health can cover the following infections: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B. Health tests for sexually transmitted infections use finger prick and urine samples and should be taken following unprotected sex or if a previous partner has tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease.
Iron is required for red blood cell production and the transport of oxygen via red blood cells. More than 20% of women experience iron deficiency during the ages of reproduction. A lack of iron leads to a high risk of developing iron deficiency anemia, whereas iron overload is known as hemochromatosis. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include low energy, shortness of breath, and palpitations; symptoms of hemochromatosis are weakness and generalised joint pains, which can develop into cirrhosis and arthritis at later stages.
Home health tests for iron deficiencies are particularly important if you suspect that you are suffering from an iron deficiency or if you have a family history of hemochromatosis. A finger prick test checks the levels of iron, total iron-binding capacity, ferritin, and transferrin saturation. Measuring the total iron-binding capacity can help diagnose iron deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis, and chronic inflammatory conditions.
- Ferritin is involved in the storage of metabolically inactive iron, so low ferritin values provides confirmation of iron deficiency.
- Transferrin is responsible for transporting iron around the body to the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. Hemochromatosis leads to higher levels of ferritin and saturation of transferrin.
- Total iron-binding capacity is a test that determines the iron-carrying capacity of the blood by quantitatively measuring serum transferrin. Increased levels of total iron-binding capacity are a sign of iron deficiency anemia, whereas reduced levels may indicate hemochromatosis, chronic liver disease, malnutrition, or sickle-cell anemia.
Written by Albina Babu, MSc
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