At Home Vs Clinical Testosterone Tests | One Is More Accurate
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
September 24, 2023

The content within this article is only for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. If you have concerns about your testosterone levels, always consult your doctor first. 

What are the main differences when we compare at home vs clinical testosterone tests?

Read on to gain valuable insights and make an informed decision about your health.

Key Takeaways:

  • At home testosterone tests can provide useful test results, but these tests do vary in their accuracy.
  • Generally, clinical or “blood draw” tests provide the most reliable and accurate testosterone levels.
  • You can order clinical testosterone tests by yourself if you want to be discrete, do not have health coverage, or have a high deductible.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone primarily produced in the testes in men and, in smaller amounts, in the ovaries in women.

It plays a vital role in male development and has various functions in both men and women.

Low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism, can present with a range of symptoms.

I have written a detailed article on this topic, and you can read it here.

Here are some of the common symptoms and health conditions associated with low testosterone in men:

  1. Decreased Libido: A reduction or lack of interest in sexual activity.
  2. Erectile Dysfunction: Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection (read my in-depth article here).
  3. Reduced Semen Volume: A decrease in the volume of semen during ejaculation.
  4. Fatigue: Feeling excessively tired or having reduced energy.
  5. Decreased Muscle Mass: A noticeable decrease in muscle bulk or strength.
  6. Increased Body Fat: This can include the development of breast tissue, known as gynecomastia.
  7. Decreased Bone Mass: Osteoporosis or reduced bone density, making bones more prone to fracture.
  8. Mood Disturbances: Depression, irritability, or lack of focus can be associated with low testosterone.
  9. Reduced Body Hair: A decrease in facial, pubic, or body hair.
  10. Hot Flashes: Sudden feelings of warmth, usually in the upper body.
  11. Swelling or Tenderness of the Breasts.
  12. Testicle Shrinkage: Reduced size of the testicles.
  13. Decreased Cognitive Abilities: Memory problems or difficulty concentrating.
  14. Anemia: A decrease in red blood cells.
  15. Reduced Height: Due to bone loss.

In women, testosterone plays a role in bone strength, mood, libido, and other aspects of health.

While women produce much lower amounts of testosterone than men, a deficiency can still cause symptoms, which might include:

  1. Reduced Libido: Decreased interest in sexual activity.
  2. Fatigue: Feeling more tired than usual.
  3. Mood Disturbances: Including depression or mood swings.
  4. Decreased Muscle Mass: Reduced strength or muscle bulk.
  5. Decreased Bone Mass: Leading to an increased risk of fractures.

 

This short but informative video perfectly describes why men’s testosterone levels fluctuate as they age and the precautions you need to take before deciding on testosterone replacement therapy:

What is a home testosterone test?

An at-home testosterone test is a screening tool that enables individuals to gauge their testosterone levels from home.

These testosterone kits usually require a urine, blood, or saliva sample, which is subsequently forwarded to a lab for examination.

These tests prioritize user-friendliness, often accompanied by straightforward instructions, with outcomes generally available in roughly a week.

What is a clinical testosterone blood test?

A clinical testosterone test is a more comprehensive blood test performed in a healthcare facility such as a hospital, clinic, dedicated lab, or doctor’s office.

These blood samples are typically drawn by a trained healthcare professional such as a nurse or phlebotomist.

Compared to at home tests, clinical testosterone tests look for a range of testosterone levels, such as:

  • Free (unbound) Testosterone: The “active” form of testosterone (used to diagnose medical problems such as “Low T”)
  • Bioavailable Testosterone: Free testosterone in addition to testosterone that is bound to a blood protein called albumin (also used for medical diagnosis)
  • Total testosterone: The most common type of testosterone test – measures both free testosterone and testosterone that is bound to blood proteins.

At home vs clinical testosterone tests

The table below compares differences between at home and clinical testosterone tests:

At-home vs Clinical Testosterone Tests

Key DifferencesAt-homeClinical
Test setting:Home useHealthcare setting
Performed by:By selfBy trained phlebotomist or nurse
Test Price:Approximately $69-$199May be covered by private insurance plan or around $59-$99 out-of-pocket (see my recommendation below)
Type of test:Most usually only measures total testosterone (See my recommendations below for ones that do a comprehensive test)Measures free testosterone, Luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, sex hormone binding globulin, human chorionic gonadotropin, etc
Test accuracy:Wide variability depending on test labMost accurate due to use of standardized assays

Is a clinical testosterone test accurate?

Clinical tests are accurate, although there will always be some variability due to the validated methods, professional training, consistency protocols, and controlled environments between labs.

This is inevitable. However, studies have confirmed that this variability between labs stays within 20% of the results typically seen when gold-standard methods are employed.

Using gold-standard methods in clinical practice is impractical, cost-prohibitive, and hence never really used in these settings.

To lend more credibility and trust to the common clinical testosterone tests, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requires laboratories to meet stringent criteria as stated in their hormone standardization program.

These labs must report testosterone values within 6.4% of samples tested by the CDC to receive certification.

To adhere to good clinical practice, your doctor may order a repeat testosterone level to account for the normal fluctuations of testosterone levels seen in all men.

Testosterone levels follow a diurnal pattern – they peak in the morning between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., hit their lowest level in the evening, and begin to rise again at night.

You should always consult your doctor for a proper medical evaluation if you suspect your testosterone levels are not where they should be.

You may have serious underlying medical problems that need to be urgently addressed, and only a trained, licensed doctor can determine that.

In certain limited situations, you may not want to approach your doctor just yet due to embarrassment about your particular situation.

Or, you may not have private insurance, or have a high deductible plan, or do not have enough coverage for the testing you want.

Or, maybe you are just curious and want to know what your testosterone levels may look like.

Fortunately, there is a way you can get a clinical testosterone test safely and discretely, no matter where you live in the United States.

Where to take a testosterone test (testosterone blood test near me)?

The links below are affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you decide to order labs though these links. Thank you for supporting my website!

The company I highly recommend is Healthlabs.com.

Benefits of using this company:

  • Discrete ordering and testing (no one reads your lab report but you, and only you).
  • Direct-to-consumer lab testing – No doctor referral or insurance necessary.
  • 4,500+ CLIA-certified across the U.S.
  • Extremely discounted pricing (less expensive than some at home tests!).

Order your lab in 3 easy steps:

  • Step 1: Order your blood or urine tests on the website.
  • Step 2: Visit a local lab near you (same one your doctor uses) for testing.
  • Step 3: Receive your results in 1-3 days in your secure Healthlabs.com account.

Order your Total and Free Clinical Testosterone test directly on the Healthlabs official website for only $99.00 here.

There are many more tests you can order discretely through Healthlabs.com, such as STD, inflammation, heavy metals, and toxins.

Feel free to explore them all on the official website linked above.

Is an at home testosterone test accurate?

There is a place for at-home testosterone tests.

They are most applicable if you are just curious or have general questions about your hormone levels in the absence of any low testosterone symptoms.

At home testosterone tests, regardless of where they are purchased from, can vary tremendously in their accuracy.

If you are not careful, you may order an at-home testosterone test that does not partner with a properly certified lab.

With many of these labs, too many questions are left unanswered about the quality of the laboratories used for the analysis.

Are they adhering to the CDC hormone standardization program?

Is the staff handling these lab specimens properly trained to follow proper testing protocols?

Are there concerns about mishandling during transit?

Is more than one lab being used?

One study comparing six different at home testosterone testing kits found a variance between 26.3-40.8% in men and 57%-115% in women!

My recommendation for an accurate at-home testosterone test

I recommend the following at-home testosterone test based on the quality of assay testing, the certification and quality of the labs used, customer service, customer reviews, and whether I would recommend it to my own loved ones:

Life Line Screening

Life Line Screening, the same company that provides the highly popular Life Line Screening Tests (click the link to read my in-depth review), also provides a very comprehensive male health test.

The test measures seven key biomarkers of men’s health:

  1. Luteinizing hormone: Signals the Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone; also plays a role in cognitive function.
  2. Estradiol: Byproduct of testosterone breakdown.
  3. Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG): Protein that regulates the sex hormones.
  4. Prolactin: High levels are related to low testosterone levels.
  5. Total Testosterone: Measures both bound (attached to proteins in your blood) and unbound (active) testosterone.
  6. Free Testosterone: Free testosterone gives you your male characteristics, drive, muscle, and energy, among other things.
  7. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA): High levels indicate the possibility of prostate cancer.

I recommend this test because:

  • It is private and secure (test kit arrives in discrete packaging); data transmission is HIPAA-compliant.
  • Your finger-prick sample is analyzed in labs certified by CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1998) and accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).
  • All tests are reviewed by an independent, board-certified doctor licensed in your state before the results are released to you.

Here is how it works:

Step 1: Order your kit from the official Life Line Screening website here.

Step 2: Follow the easy directions in the kit after you receive it to register yourself and collect your sample.

Step 3: Mail your kit in the included prepaid shipping return mailer to the CLIA/CAP lab.

Step 4: Receive and read your accurate results online within 3-5 days.

That’s it!

I hope I’ve been able to shed some light for you on the differences between at home and clinical testosterone tests.

Wishing you healthy “Test” levels!

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