HGH and testosterone testing are used to learn if you’ve got a deficiency or excess of certain hormones and if the treatment is required.
Regular testosterone levels are essential for certain functions, especially in males. Symptoms of low testosterone may include low sex drive, tiredness, irritability, erectile dysfunction, and depression. An at-home test may indicate when to contact a doctor.
What are home testosterone test kits?
A home testosterone test is a simple kit allowing a person to test their testosterone levels. This can help indicate if an individual has low testosterone. The kits are available to purchase online.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that low testosterone levels can predispose males to certain diseases and conditions. These include:
- metabolic syndrome
- cardiovascular disease
- neurodegenerative disease
- high mortality
How to choose a home testosterone test?
Individuals may wish to consider purchasing a home test from a reputable brand. This could mean a company that claims to use reliable and regulated labs that produce accurate results. Reading independent reviews from companies, including the Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot, may also help.
A person may also prefer a specific sample collection method. Some tests require a blood sample that typically involves a finger prick. Others may require a lab visit for a blood draw, and some may require a person to take a saliva or urine sample.
Cost may also be a deciding factor, and some tests may be more expensive than others. An individual should consider their budget when researching different brands, as prices can vary.
How to take a home testosterone test?
The process of taking a home testosterone test varies, and a person should always read the accompanying instructions carefully. Some services also have sample collection instruction videos on their websites.
Most tests require a saliva sample, but others may require a blood sample via a finger prick.
Usually, individuals send their results to the specified lab on the day of sample collection. Results are then available within a few days.
How much do home testosterone tests cost?
Each company prices its testosterone tests differently. While some charge one-time payments, others offer subscription services.
Medical insurers do not typically cover home tests. However, a person should check with their provider or benefits team to see if they are eligible for reimbursement.
Some home testing companies may also accept Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) payments.
How experts chose
Experts choose at-home tests that meet the following criteria:
- Laboratories: When possible, experts choose companies that process test samples in labs with Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification. This means that the labs follow state and federal regulations.
- Budget: You can pick at-home tests that suit a range of budgets.
- Privacy: Experts choose companies with robust, transparent privacy measures, such as data protection and discreet packaging.
- Test result speed: Experts select companies that inform customers when their test results will be available and whether by email, app, or phone.
- Further support: Experts indicate whether companies offer further support, such as a follow-up phone consultation with a doctor to discuss test results.
Why Get Tested?
Growth hormone (GH) is produced by the pituitary, situated at the base of the brain, behind the bridge of your nose, and has growth-promoting properties. It is measured to check if there is under or overproduction. In addition, it is used to examine the function of the pituitary and to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
When To Get Tested?
The evaluation of GH status is based on clinical findings, medical history, imaging, and biochemical tests. Slow growth in height and delayed development (in children), whilst decreased bone density and/or muscle strength, and increased lipids (in adults) could all be related to insufficient GH production. Symptoms suggestive of acromegaly in adults may be a result of excess GH production. It is also measured as part of an evaluation of pituitary function.
After an overnight fast, several blood samples are taken at timed intervals from veins in your arm, as part of a stimulation or suppression test. Pre-adolescents require priming prior to performing a stimulation test. A sample is usually taken for measurement of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) on the baseline sample. When monitoring treatment for GH excess a single sample of blood may be drawn following a fast.
Test Preparation Needed?
In healthy adults GH is released in bursts throughout the day, it rises sharply 3-4 hours after a meal and within 60 minutes after the onset of sleep making random GH results in general uninterruptable. GH may be measured after stimulation or suppression testing. Fasting levels are used to monitor treatment for GH excess.
How is it used?
GH testing is not used as a screening test. It is largely requested in those with symptoms of growth hormone abnormalities, as a follow-up to other abnormal hormone test results, or to help understand how the pituitary gland is working. Where biochemical tests give abnormal results they are used in conjunction with imaging scans to help diagnose and locate a pituitary tumor.
Several GH measurements, as part of a stimulation test, may also be performed on people who have had radiation treatment of the central nervous system or whole body irradiation prior to stem cell transplants. This is common in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) where treatment with radiation can affect the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, thus affecting the growth hormone production.
GH stimulation tests help identify lower GH production and give your doctor information about the severity of your condition. They also help to diagnose hypopituitarism (where there is low or absent production of hormones(s). A sample of blood is taken after you have fasted for 10-12 hours. Then, under close medical supervision, you are given an intravenous solution of insulin, glucagon, arginine, or GHRH. Blood samples are taken at timed intervals and GH levels are measured in each to see if your pituitary gland was stimulated to produce the expected levels of GH.
For a suppression test, a sample of blood is taken after a10-12 hours fast. After this, a standard glucose solution is given to the patient to drink. Blood samples are taken at timed intervals and GH levels are tested in each to see if GH production from the pituitary gland is suppressed.
Often other blood tests that reflect pituitary function, such as T4, TSH, cortisol, FSH, LH, and testosterone (in men), are also requested. These tests are usually performed prior to GH testing to make sure that they are normal and/or controlled with medication before GH testing is done but may also be measured as part of a stimulation test.
What does the test result mean?
GH suppression test:
If your GH levels are not significantly suppressed during a GH suppression test (i.e. they stay higher than they should) and:
- you have symptoms of acromegaly
- other pituitary hormone levels are normal and/or controlled
- your IGF-1 levels are high
it is likely that you are producing too much GH and it is causing complications. If you have other pituitary hormones that are abnormal, then you may have a condition causing hyperpituitarism. If a mass shows up on an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI; then you may have pituitary or very rarely another sort of tumor. If you are being monitored for a previous tumor, then you may be having a recurrence.
GH stimulation test:
If your TSH is low then that should be addressed first as thyroid deficiencies can cause symptoms similar to GHD.
If your GH levels are not significantly stimulated during a GH stimulation test (i.e. they stay lower than they should be) and:
- you have symptoms of GHD • other pituitary hormone levels are normal and/or controlled
- your IGF-1 level is low
then it is likely that you have a deficiency of GH and that your doctor may treat the symptoms. You may also have a more general decrease in pituitary function.
Is there anything else I should know?
Pituitary tumors are the most common cause of excess GH production but these tumors may also cause deficiencies of other pituitary hormones, such as ACTH (Cushing’s syndrome) or prolactin (galactorrhoea). If the tumor is relatively large it may inhibit all pituitary hormone production and cause damage to the surrounding tissues including the optic nerve.
Factors that can interfere with GH testing include:
Stress, exercise, and low blood glucose levels
- Drugs that can increase GH include amphetamines, arginine, dopamine, estrogens, glucagon, histamine, insulin, levodopa, methyldopa, and nicotinic acid.
- Drugs that can decrease GH levels: corticosteroids and phenothiazines.
- A radioactive scan within a week of the test (with some laboratory methods)
Abnormal GH levels can usually be modified once the causes are identified. Synthetic GH is available to treat deficiencies in children (treatment of adults with GHD is more controversial). Combinations of surgery, medication, and radiation can be used to treat pituitary tumors that are causing excess GH production. It is important to identify GH abnormalities as soon as possible to get a good outcome. If left untreated, the GH-deficient child will remain short. The bone growth changes associated with gigantism and acromegaly are permanent.
There can be long-term complications from GH abnormalities. Acromegaly, for instance, can cause colonic polyps (increasing a patient’s risk of developing colon cancer), diabetes, high blood pressure, and visual abnormalities. If a pituitary tumor permanently damages pituitary cells, then multiple hormone replacements may be necessary. Increased bone growth may also lead to trapped nerves (carpal tunnel syndrome), arthritis, and weak bones.
What conditions are treated with GH therapy?
Besides GHD, children may be treated with growth hormone replacement if they have:
- Chronic renal insufficiency
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Turner’s syndrome
- Growth failure at 4 years or older and were born small for gestational age
- Short stature homeobox-containing gene (SHOX) deficiency
Treating adults with HGH replacement is controversial unless GHD has been diagnosed and other criteria are met.
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