Answering Common Questions About Blood Tests


Preparation for blood test with pretty young woman by female doctor medical uniform on the table in white bright room. Nurse pierces the patient's arm vein with needle blank tube.Blood tests are important for many aspects of your health. Blood tests are a simple but effective way to get information about your health. However, some people get confused about blood tests.  To help you familiarize yourself with blood tests, here are some answers to common questions. 

How long will a blood test take?

How long a blood test takes will depend on the type of blood test.

The following are some examples: A complete blood count (CBC) is done in about 30 minutes.  Serum tests (which measure electrolytes, thyroid hormone levels, and liver enzymes) can be done in one hour or less. A lipid panel requires no fasting, so it’s usually completed in 10 to 15 minutes after you arrive at the lab.

What do the results tell the doctor?

Depending on the type of test, your doctor will be looking for risk factors for various illnesses-like high cholesterol indicates an increased chance of heart disease or signs of a specific illness. Many blood tests are done to check how well your body is functioning. For example, thyroid function can be checked with a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test –a common blood test performed to assess the thyroid gland’s function.

Do the results tell a person if they have an illness, or are they only a sign that something is wrong?

There are three things that a blood test can tell you: If you have an illness or disease. If there is something wrong with your body, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a disease but might warrant further investigation by your doctor.

Are there any risks to having blood taken?

There are very few risks associated with having blood drawn. Most people tolerate the procedure well, but there are some possible side effects you should be aware of: A small risk of infection at the needle site  Bruising or bleeding at the needle site Slight possibility of fainting when you have your blood taken if you’re taking certain medications or have other medical conditions

How frequently should I have my blood tested?

The frequency of your blood tests will depend on what you are being tested for. For example, your physician may order a complete blood count (CBC) and differential to monitor for early signs of infection or inflammation.  Your healthcare provider can help determine the best interval based on your needs and lifestyle. Some disorders require periodic monitoring to confirm the diagnosis or determine whether there has been any change in treatment effectiveness.  

Will I have to fast before my blood test?

Some blood tests, such as glucose and cholesterol tests, require you to fast for several hours. Others, like the PSA test for prostate cancer or the complete blood count (CBC), don’t require fasting. When you arrive for your appointment, a nurse or phlebotomist will ask if you’ve eaten or drunk anything in the past eight hours.  A blood test is also useful for looking at the overall health of your body. This can help determine if there’s an underlying cause for symptoms you may have been experiencing, and it can even help detect problems before they become more serious.

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