The skin test for cholesterol detects the early signs of heart disease. Measuring the amount and types of cholesterol in the body is very important in preventing and detecting heart disease because, if the body has more cholesterol than it can use to create hormones and build cells, it is collected in the artery walls to form plaque. This plaque prevents the blood from moving properly through the body, and the risk of a heart attack or stroke increases. The skin test can help medical professionals provides an idea of how much cholesterol is in the blood, which can indicate a patient's risk for plaque build-up in the arteries.
The medical term for the build up of plaque in the arteries is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is often asymptomatic, meaning that a person with stockpiles of fat in the artery walls may not experience any symptoms of the condition. A cholesterol test can give healthcare professionals a quick risk assessment to use to gauge the risk of a patient for atherosclerosis.
While blood tests used to measure cholesterol often take 24 hours for the results, a skin test typically takes less than five minutes. It measures the amount of sterol or cholesterol in the outer layers of a person's skin. It is considered non-invasive because no needle or lancet punctures the skin.
During the skin test for cholesterol, a foam pad is placed on the palm of the patient's hand. Liquid is dropped into areas in the pad that change color according to the amount of cholesterol in the skin. An electric wand shows the exact amount, and this is then read and recorded by medical staff. Unlike blood tests that measure cholesterol in the body, no fasting is required.
The skin test for cholesterol is not meant to replace traditional blood tests to check cholesterol. These blood tests give a lipoprotein analysis which measures the total cholesterol in the blood. If the results of a skin test show a patient to be a high risk for atherosclerosis, the healthcare provider would most likely send the patient for blood tests. Routine cholesterol testing can monitor how the blood creates, uses, transports and eliminates cholesterol in the body.