How to Understand Your Lab Results

How to Understand Your Lab Results

Your lab results provide important information about your health. Understanding the data you get back from your lab tests can help you make better decisions about your health care. By learning more about how laboratory tests work and what your results may mean for you, you can ensure that you get the most out of your medical care.


When it comes time for your doctor to order testing, they will provide you with instructions. It is important to follow those instructions as best you can. This may include being specific with your diet, fasting, or avoiding certain substances. Ensuring the test has the right context and preparation can make your results far more accurate and avoing further testing.


Most tests that are conducted in laboratories involve collecting a sample from your body. This sample is usually analyzed using automated or manual techniques. Depending on the type of lab test, results can generally be seen within a few hours or days. The exact amount of time may depend on the type of test and the amount of complexity involved.


The type of lab test you receive will depend on the health issue that you are being tested for. Blood tests, urine tests, stool samples, and x-rays are the most common types of tests that may be ordered for any variety of reasons. Other more specialized tests may also be ordered if a laboratory is equipped for them.


Although laboratory tests are generally considered safe, there is a small chance for risks. Most of these risks involve minor complications such as bruising, pain, or dizziness. Rarely, more severe complications can occur. You should always follow the instructions of your doctor for a safe and effective testing process.


Lab tests are ordered for a variety of reasons. Commonly, tests are ordered to diagnose conditions such as anemia or diabetes. Tests may also be done to look for infections or to screen for diseases. In other cases, tests may be ordered to monitor existing health issues or the effects of treatments.


Most laboratory testing can be done on-site at the doctor's office or at a commercial laboratory. Depending on the type of test, you may be able to get your results quickly or they may take a few days. You should speak with your doctor to understand the timeline for your specific test.

Understanding Results

When you receive your results, you may not understand them. Most laboratory test results provide a range of what is considered healthy and what may indicate a health issue. Your doctor can explain these results in further detail and may order follow-up tests if necessary.