Monday, February 16, 2009

Never TOO Much Testing?

As I read the emails from many readers who are going through a bit of craziness called health care, the pattern of testing is emerging. Women are given standard blood tests, then thyroid panels then hormone panels. Men are given standard blood tests, then drug screening and then metals, then hormone panels, then thyroid panels. Very few people are getting these tests done at ONE time and many are returning to doctors repeatedly, hoping for an answer, only to be given one more round of blood or urine examinations. Most of these tests aren't being done properly, and it's not the labs making the error.

Every test ordered needs to be consistent and it needs to include at a minimum, infection testing, metals testing, hormone testing, and thyroid testing. Each test needs to also have a tracking of urine, which should have proteins as well as blood levels included. The tests need to be the same AT ALL TIMES so that those which show variances have a level that is PATIENT specific, not just "normal" as noted by ranges determined by the National Institute of Health.

A patient needs to discover patterns of response to be properly diagnosed. Each female patient still in menses, needs to be tested cyclically. Iron levels on a luteal phase will be different than iron levels during ovulation. Women with perimenopausal symptoms whilst still in their twenties should be given the same tests as those who are in perimenopausal conditions during their forties. This either confirms or dispels the idea that she is having early onset menopause. Body temperature needs to be taken daily for a minimum of six months to determine ovulation patterns, pituitary and thyroid regulation, and even eating disorders and malnutrition.

Patterns determined when a patient is in the best possible health will rule out the issues found when in ill health. Normal for Mary may be a 98.1 degree temperature, a body weight of 136 lbs, and a blood pressure of 101/65, with a resting pulse of 62. Whereas, normal for Joseph may be 98.9 degrees, 176 lbs, 120/50, and 72 for a pulse. If Mary is at the clinic with a 98.9 temperature, there may be a serious infection going on, and if Joseph has a 98.1, he may be anemic. Both would be dismissed by most clinics. The problem lies in the misinformation of the tests themselves. No one can expect normal for one to be normal for another; not doctors, not patients, and NOT the NIH which determines "normals" on blood work. Testing needs to be consistent, and it needs to be at a level that is PATIENT specific, not "general population" specific.

Most of us aren't fond of visiting a lab, getting blood drawn and waiting for some unknown physician to determine our results. However, most of us aren't aware that we can request the results of our tests, and should keep track of them. Free services, such as Google Health, allow patients to monitor their testing by filling out simple forms that include test results, exam results, hospital visits, and medications taken. The Veterans Administration allows patients in their system to use MyHealthEVet, which keeps track of the doctor input information as well as the patient's own tracking. Know your own "normal" and it will help a doctor determine a prognosis if you are ill.

In recent years labs are now accepting requests from private citizens, who aren't handing in Physician signed requests. People can monitor their own metals, thyroid panels, metabolic levels, and hormone panels. The tests are costly, but can save thousands of dollars in medical bills. A $300 blood exam every four months, when in good health, can give you and your doctor a better sense of your wellness. And, it can monitor if you have levels of cortisol, estrogen, or even copper which seem out of whack.

Blame the legal system. Doctors are now almost completely reliant on testing rather than listening to patients relay symptoms. The world is peppered with the Malpractice Lawyers just waiting for the chance to debunk a doctor's credibility. The tests are supposed to keep a Doctor from misdiagnosing a patient. In fact, most tests results, designed through the averaging of the general populous, miss illnesses that show up later in tests, long after early detection and healing would happen. HMOs, PPOs, and even national health care systems such as the Veterans' Health in the US, or Canadian Health Care, are the primary promoters of this thought process because class action lawsuits, and lawyers who thrive on mistakes. In fact, millions of people are dead, or close to it, because SYMPTOMS are being avoided.

The best ammunition against a lawyers' designed health care program is to arm yourself with tests from reputable labs. Knowing your health patterns, hormone patterns, thyroid patterns, and keeping records of this information is going to help your doctors. It's going to help you. It's going to save money. And, it's the only protection we have against a failing health system. But, what if you haven't had a pattern of good health in some time? What are your options?

Keep testing. If you are under a doctor's care ask her to run full blood tests EVERY time you are scheduled for an appointment. Even if you are battling a genetic disorder, a chronic disease, a chemical disorder, or reactions to medication, you can start to see patterns. Does your migraine increase during menstrual cycle? Does cutting out fats or eggs from your diet affect your platelets or protein levels? Do you find that your pain increases in the morning, or in the evening? Make notes of ALL your patterns. Patterns are as truthful as blood tests because they help determine what is NORMAL for YOU. Make sure you get the SAME tests each time so you can see consistent levels. Take the tests at the exact same time of day, so you can see if the levels are related to your sleep, level of activity, or even diet.

Today's questions: Do you feel your doctors are missing key blood tests that need to be included when you are at the lab? What do you feel is the biggest mistake in the testing process? Are there times you feel more "normal" than others? Do you find that you are compared to other people, rather than to your own level of "normal?"

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