Contributed by – Rachana Arya
What is the Homocysteine test?
A homocysteine test is also known as total homocysteine and plasma total homocysteine. This test measures the amount of homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine is a form of amino acid. It is a chemical your body uses to manufacture proteins. Usually, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folic acid break down homocysteine and modify it into other substances that your body requires. Ideally, there should be very less homocysteine left in your bloodstream. However, if you have high levels of homocysteine in your blood it may be a symptom of vitamin deficiency, heart diseases or a rare inherited disorder.
If your doctor thinks vitamin deficiency is the cause of your high homocysteine levels, he may prescribe nutritional modifications to address the issue. Consumption of a balanced diet should make sure that you get the right amount of vitamins. If your medic thinks that your homocysteine levels are putting you at risk for heart diseases he will monitor your condition and might recommend some more tests. In exceptional cases, homocysteine could be due to homocystinuria which is a genetic ailment that doctors might also test for in your newborn. It means that your body is unable to process amino acids properly.
Who should get the test?
Factors like age are responsible for this disorder. The levels can get higher as you get older. Your gender is another factor because men usually have higher homocysteine levels than women. Excessive smoking, alcohol consumption and use of vitamin B supplements can also have an impact on your homocysteine levels.
Why is the test needed?
You may need this test if you have signs of a vitamin B or folic acid deficiency. They include dizziness, weakness, fatigue, pale skin, sore tongue and mouth. In case of vitamin B12 deficiency, you feel a tingling sensation in the hands, feet, arms and legs. You might need this test if you are at high risk for heart ailment due to prior heart problems or a family history of the same. Extra homocysteine can build up in the arteries making you prone to blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
What does the Homocysteine test result mean?
High homocysteine levels mean that you are not consuming sufficient vitamin B12, B6 or folic acid in your diet and you are at a higher risk of heart disease. However, abnormal homocysteine levels do not always indicate a medical condition in need of treatment.
How is the test done?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in and comes out. This procedure usually takes less than five minutes.
However, the examination consists of segregating the blood cells and plasma rapidly. Therefore, unless your doctor has the amenities to conduct this test you might be required to go to a laboratory to get it done. Your doctor should instruct you about where to go for this blood test. You might be required to observe fasting for around ten to twelve hours but you are allowed to drink water. You can be asked not to take medications or supplements before the test.
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