Immunology involves studying the body’s immune system, its functions, and its disorders. Testing helps doctors understand more about why a patient may have trouble fighting off infection or if the patient has an autoimmune disorder. Immunology testing also detects the presence of diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Lyme disease.
To fight diseases and other health problems, the immune system produces antibodies, which are proteins with the ability to bind to, or catch, germs or other substances. When caught, the germs and substances are neutralized, and other immune cells are attracted to the neutralized area. Immunology testing uses the body’s immune system to find these health problems and various substances, such as viruses, hormones, and hemoglobin. Through testing, artificial antibodies are created to match a specific germ or substance that doctors are looking to find. When blood, stool, or urine samples make contact with the artificial antibodies, they will bind to the germ or substance, if it’s detected in the sample.
There are two categories of immunological tests; laboratory and rapid. Laboratory tests are the most commonly used and include drawing the patient’s blood to get a sample. The tests involve sensitive devices used to measure antibodies in the blood based on a color or light reaction. The more of a reaction detected, the more of a germ or substance is present. Lab tests can take up to three days to process when the doctor needs to examine cells that grow from the sample. Used less often, the rapid tests are faster than laboratory testing and provide instant results. Glass and test strips are used to measure antibodies in rapid testing, but the results don’t show how much of a germ or substance is present.
What Testing Reveals
Testing at an immunology clinical laboratory in Los Angeles can reveal many conditions and diseases, as well as provide information patients and doctors need. Answers come through the many specific types of immunology tests. Some of them are immune globulin tests. These check for immunoglobulins, which are proteins with antibody activity. When the body has too many of these proteins, the cause could be an infection, autoimmune disorder, chronic disease or cancer. If the body has too few immunoglobulin proteins, the cause could also be cancer and chronic diseases, as well as medications.
Physicians may order IgG, IgA, or IgM globulin tests to look for specific antibodies. Rheumatoid factor testing helps classify arthritis cases and diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. Human leukocyte antigens, or HLA, typing is a test with various applications, including determining paternity. HLA tests are also used to determine if a patient is compatible for donor organs, tissue, and bone marrow needed for transplantation. These tests help diagnose some autoimmune disorders.
Other testing available through an immunology clinical laboratory in Los Angeles include screening stool samples for blood. While blood in feces may be a sign of polyps or hemorrhoids, it can also indicate bowel cancer. Blood tests that show higher than normal levels of protein are useful in diagnosing heart attack and thrombosis. Some tests are useful for diagnosing non-life threatening conditions and gathering information, such as determining a person’s blood type, pregnancy tests, and checking for drugs in a person’s system. Urine testing can detect a urinary tract infection, kidney damage, and diabetes.
Immunology testing is also used for allergy tests and to find the germs that cause infections, such as those causing bacterial tonsillitis. Another test option is to detect viruses, including hepatitis C, HPV, and HIV. In addition to discovering or diagnosing a disease or condition, immunology tests can help monitor how fast a disease progresses.
Immunology testing includes serology, which is a study of the clear fluid, or serum, that separates as blood clots. Testing may be used to diagnose an infection, rheumatic illnesses, shingles, and other diseases and conditions. It can also be used diagnose immune deficiencies related to a lack of antibodies, such as X-linked agammaglobulinemia. Serology testing sometimes includes non-blood samples, such as semen, saliva, and spinal fluid, all of which could include antibodies. An example of this type of testing is forensic serology, which uses semen evidence to link a rapist to a victim.
Who Should Be Tested
Anyone feeling ill but unable to get a diagnosis through other tests should consider an immunology clinical laboratory in Los Angeles. Immunology testing is good for those considering pregnancy and want to check their immunity, as well as for those traveling internationally. The tests are a good way for those suffering certain illnesses to monitor their condition.