For years, my own health journey to finally getting a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease came to a screeching halt because I couldn’t find a doctor in my area who understood thyroid disease and I couldn’t get a referral to a specialist unless I went through a doctor. I also couldn’t get lab tests without a doctor, and I had no way of trying to find answers for the problems I was having (like hair loss, trouble sleeping, fatigue, digestive issues and more).
Thankfully, this is one area of medicine that is rapidly changing and at-home lab tests you can order without a doctor are becoming more available in many areas.
Finding Ways to Get Lab Tests
After going through eight doctors (OBs, general practitioners, etc) who couldn’t find anything clinically wrong with my thyroid, I’m so glad to finally be working with an amazing doc who understands and specializes in thyroid health. He was able to finally diagnose my issues as Hashimotos Thyroiditis (by finally testing my antibodies and doing a thyroid ultrasound) and offer a treatment plan that has helped me resolve my symptoms.
At the same time, I still vividly remember the frustration of not being able to get the tests and help I need and I’m glad that some of the tests that were most helpful to me are now available without a doctor’s order. I also found that many of these tests were less expensive when I ordered them myself than when I went through insurance for previous tests.
As an example, I once asked my doctor to order a Vitamin D test during one of my pregnancies, since low Vitamin D levels are linked to certain pregnancy complications. Even with insurance, the test ended up costing over $400 at one of the major lab companies.
In comparison, one of the companies I’ve used for lab testing without a doctor order offers a Vitamin D test for under $50 and it is even less than that when in a panel!
Finding a Practitioner Who Gets You
Of course, if a test shows a problem, it is still necessary to have a doctor to prescribe any needed info and to correctly interpret the test, but I found that having tests already in hand made it easier to get an appointment with a doctor and also lessened the cost of most appointments.
Please note that it is still important to work with a doctor you trust to find a plan to treat any medical condition. I personally now use and recommend SteadyMD, a new app and system that lets me work with my primary care doctor anytime I need him through video chat or text.
Lab Tests You Can Order (Without A Doctor)
These are the most helpful lab tests I’ve been able to order without a doctor. Of course, these tests are never made to replace a doctor’s care, but can be a less expensive or supplemental way to get tests, especially for those without insurance or with insurance that won’t cover certain tests.
Genetic DNA Testing
New data emerges weekly about genes and how they affect our daily lives. This seems overwhelming at first, but knowing my common gene mutations has helped me to create a plan to support my body in the best way possible. My husband and I both got tested (and tested all of our kids) through a new company with strict privacy and anonymity policies to protect our genetic data.
As we learn more about epigenetics, I think this data will also be helpful in optimizing our health through supporting our genes in more complex ways.
Here’s what I did:
- Got my DNA Analysis from Nutrition Genome.
- A few weeks later, I got back a detailed 50+ page report explaining how my genes may impact things like hormones, mental health and other aspects of my life. It also included some guidelines of foods that are healthiest for me based on genes and things I need to be especially important to consume (like foods rich in zinc, Vitamin C and antioxidants).
- 23andMe is another popular genetic testing option, though many people have privacy concerns based on some recent information. I also did this test years ago.
- When I got my results back, I submitted them to several websites to help interpret the health aspects of my genes. I found GeneticGenie.org (free), KnowYourGenetics.com (free) and Livewello.com ($20 one time fee) the most helpful.
What I learned: The data I got from this test and the interpretation from the other websites helped me understand that I was genetically predisposed to B-12 deficiency, along with a few others. With my doctor, I found which forms of these nutrients were best for me to supplement with and they are now part of my daily regimen. The results also helped explain some of my thyroid and other health issues and how to know which supplements my body needs specifically.
Often, getting basic lab testing requires something like this: Call doctors office and schedule appointment, go to appointment and ask for lab tests, pay co-pay for office visit, make appointment for lab tests, get lab tests and pay co-pay or full amount depending on deductible, make another doctors appointment to get results, get results and pay co-pay again.
Not only time consuming, but this can also be expensive depending on insurance. I found two options that make this process so much easier and cheaper!
Lab Testing at Home
If you can handle a relatively painless finger stick and don’t want to leave your house, EverlyWell is a great option. These lab kits are shipped to your door and you do the test at home and ship it back. It’s fast and easy and you don’t have to go anywhere. They offer panels for thyroid, hormones, food sensitivities, STDs and more.
The only downside is that since they are shipped to you, these are the best when you need immediate results.
Local Lab Testing Without a Doc
A couple of years ago, I found a company that lets me order labs online and get them at at a local lab at a fraction of what I’d paid… even with insurance. They test everything from Aldosterone to Zinc and everything in between. I’ve used their CBC, Thyroid Panel and Hormone Panel. (Click here and then click on “Lab testing” to see all of the options they have.)
What I learned: These tests were extremely helpful when I first started taking thyroid medication and needed to re-test my levels often while we determined how much I needed to take to normalize my levels. I also found that my iron was slightly low and was able to correct this. Again, I was working with a doctor to interpret these test results, but saved a lot of money by using an independent lab, since it is possible to order tests without a doctor through this company.
This is a simple test that doesn’t require a lab but that many people don’t even think about taking. It is possible and simple to measure blood sugar at home using a basic glucometer. This is the device that diabetics use to test blood sugar and many people are familiar with.
I’ve explained before how I use a glucometer during pregnancy as a more accurate and detailed way to make sure that my blood sugar levels are good and that I am not at risk for gestational diabetes, but this simple test can provide much more health insight than just gestational diabetes.
Chris Kresser details how at-home glucose monitoring can be a way of protecting against heart disease and diabetes (as well as a good early warning sign).
Personally, I check my blood sugar over a period of a week at two separate times during pregnancy and record it for my doc/midwife to check. I take my blood glucose levels four times a day and record. I also just do this at random intervals every few months to keep an eye on what my blood sugar is doing normally.
According to Kresser, levels should be:
- Fasting blood glucose (first thing in the morning) of 86 or lower
- 1 hour after eating= 140 or lower
- 2 hours after eating= 120 or lower
- 3 hours after eating= back to fasting level
Of course, if this or any test shows a problem, it would be important to see a health practitioner to review and form a plan of action.
As I already mentioned, these tests can’t replace the care of a doctor or health practitioner, but were a way that I could begin to find health answers when I was unable to find a doctor or get lab tests. These tests can be beneficial to help work with a doctor to find answers to health struggles.
There are also now programs (like SteadyMD) that help patients who can’t find a doctor or specialist in their area get lab testing, interpret the results, and develop a plan of action.
Do you struggle to find good medical care? Have you taken matters into your own hands? Please share and help others in the same boat!