Health Team

Consumer Reports: Home health tests can be misleading

Posted May 4, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2012 6:23 p.m. EDT

— Checking for health issues at home is becoming more popular, and with do-it-yourself home health tests for everything from high cholesterol to hypertension to pregnancy, the process has never been easier. 

Doctors even recommend home health tests for people looking to manage diabetes or high blood pressure. Glucose kits to manage diabetes are common and blood pressure monitors for patients with hypertension or borderline hypertension are sold by the millions. 

But according to information released recently by Consumer Reports, some home health tests can be misleading. 

One of the more well known tests Consumer Reports recommends avoiding is a kit designed to let women know when menopause is underway. 

"Women in their late 40s and 50s might interpret those results to mean they no longer need birth control, and that could result in an unwanted pregnancy," Consumer Reports' Marvin Lipman said. 

Tests that check for high cholesterol levels are also questionable, Consumer Reports said. 

"These tests measure total cholesterol, but you still need a doctor to interpret the results for you, and to tell you what to do about it." 

Other home health tests provide good information, but no analysis that patients may need to hear from doctors. For example, urinary-tract infection tests let people know whether or not they need to see a doctor, but they don't guarantee that physicians will prescribe drugs over the phone. 

Another test Consumer Reports recommends avoiding checks for early signs of heart disease.