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Medical self-testing should be done with caution

 Medical self-testing should be done with caution (Photo: iStock)

Meditech has revolutionised the way medical care is delivered nowadays. Teleconsults are now the norm. Self-diagnosis is increasingly being driven by artificial intelligence (AI).

Those requiring medical tests don’t need to go anywhere either, they can simply self-test at home or office. Private medical labs are only too willing to send you all manner of self-testing kits for many medical conditions.

The main drivers of self-taken medical samples are convenience and privacy. You do not need to make any appointments or wait out in never-ending queues within medical lab facilities. Women are all too aware that some gynaecological tests involve having to go through uncomfortable pelvic exams. Men too have their share of medical tests that are also unpleasant.

Avoiding such by taking your samples is not only more acceptable but also avoids intrusive medical exams and heightens your sense of privacy. Some self-directed tests will give you instant results that are easy to interpret. Examples in women are ovulation tests and home pregnancy tests.

The result is simply either a positive or a negative, with no complexities on what to do next. Other tests require self-taken samples to be couriered to a formal lab. The results will subsequently filter back to you either physically or electronically, with simplified advice on further actions that you may need to take. 

You can easily do home tests for urine infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and viral infections like Hepatitis and HIV. Those with conditions like diabetes already routinely monitor their blood sugar levels at home. It’s all good if the results turn out normal.

But what if they turn out abnormal? You must then formally consult your doctor for appropriate recommendations. The temptation to self-medicate, or wait it out when faced with abnormal results should be resisted. Unless of course what you tested for is mundane and inconsequential.

Self-directed medical testing has also moved into more complex entities. You must have heard of biotech companies that offer personalised genomics testing for health, ancestry and more. They will mail you a kit with simple instructions on collecting a saliva sample, no blood, no needles, no fuss.

Your sample can then be used to create a profile with all sorts of genetic information that may be linked to future health risks, heritable conditions and much more.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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