How Do I Check For Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is most common in Northern America or Northern Europe. People who spend time in wooded or grassy areas and have exposed skin are most at risk of tick bites. If you are bitten and successfully remove the tick within two days, your risk of contracting Lyme disease is low. Still, its always important to err on the side of caution and take a Lyme disease test if you have been exposed to Lyme disease-carrying ticks.
A blood test is used to identify the antibodies of the bacteria in your blood . As it can take your body some time to develop antibodies, these tests are the most reliable a few weeks after initial exposure.
If you would like to test from home, LetsGetCheckeds at-home Lyme Disease Test works by identifying Borrelia antibodies in the blood which can indicate exposure to Lyme disease. It involves a simple finger prick sample and online results will be available within 2-5 days.
The test will arrive in discreet packaging with a return envelope and clear instructions inside. Should you have any questions, our dedicated medical team is available throughout the process to offer a helping hand. If you need further information about the collection process, you can find out more here.
How Is It Diagnosed
If youâve been outside in an area where ticks are known to live, you should tell your doctor. Theyâll also want to know about the symptoms youâre having. These details are crucial to making a diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Early symptoms that usually occur within the first month after a tick bite can include:
- Rash at the site of the tick bite that may look like a âbullâs-eyeâ
- Racing heart
- Problems with your short-term memory
Symptoms that come and go are common with Lyme disease. They will also depend on the stage of the disease.
First Its Important To Understand How A Doctor Should Test For Lyme Disease
Standard Lyme disease lab testing uses a two-tier system to analyze your blood for antibodies, which is recommended by the CDC. First, you take an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay testalso known as enzyme immunoassays which aims to detect Immunoglobulin G and Immunoglobulin M in your blood, or antibodies that your immune system produces in response to the bacteria that cause Lyme, the Borrelia species.2
If you test positive for IgG and IgM antibodies, then the CDC also recommends taking a Western blot test. This test looks for bands, which are barcode-like lines of proteins in the blood that signify IgG and IgM antibodies.3 Alternatively, you may take another ELISA test to confirm the results of the first test.
Some at-home Lyme disease test manufacturers claim to use a similar process to laboratory tests. Others may test urine samples or tissue from your cheeks, which are not recommended testing methods for the identification of Lyme disease antibodies, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
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Microbiologist Elli Theel, who directs the Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, calls the 2015 study incredibly promising. The sensitivity they showed just in early Lyme disease patients was very high, the highest Ive actually seen, she said.
In an upcoming publication, the researchers also showed that metabolomics can differentiate Lyme from a similar tick-borne disease called southern tick-associated rash illness . The disease causes similar symptoms as Lyme, including a bullseye rash, and occurs in overlapping geographic regions. Currently there is no laboratory test to diagnose STARI, and little is known about how the disease progresses and how to treat it, something Molins hopes will change with better testing.
Lyme Disease Diagnosis And Laboratory Testing
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on the presence of symptoms, a physical exam, the possibility of exposure to infected ticks and, if necessary, laboratory testing. If your health care provider suspects Lyme disease, you may be asked to provide a blood sample for testing.
Public health and laboratory experts in Canada, the United States and worldwide support the 2-step testing used in Alberta as the best laboratory method for supporting the diagnosis of Lyme disease. These high standards help protect individuals from misleading false-positive results and unnecessary treatments.
In Alberta, laboratory testing for the first step is done by the Provincial Laboratory for Public Health. The second verification step is done by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg to reduce the chances of false-positive results.
The Alberta government advises against the use of laboratory testing offered by some private laboratories outside of Canada. Some of these laboratories use non-standardized testing methods. These methods may report a higher number of false-positive results.
False positives can result in misdiagnosis that can lead to a delay in finding the actual cause of an individuals illness, as well as unnecessary, expensive and sometimes harmful treatments.
A 2014 study found that one alternate United States laboratory had incorrectly diagnosed Lyme disease in up to 57% of healthy people who did not have Lyme disease.
What Happens If You Do Not Get Tested For Lyme Disease
Lyme disease does not go away on its own. In fact, it canspread to other parts of your body like your joints, nervous system and heart.
If left untreated, its possible the infection will make your symptoms worse. It may even cause autoimmune issues. Meaning, your own immune system will start working against you, making it difficult to fight off illnesses and diseases.
In conclusion, getting tested is a must. Getting tested by aspecialist who uses multiple, effective testing methods is an even greatermust.
Hopefully your results will come back negative for Lymedisease. But if not, working with a specialist can ensure you receive the righttreatment.
What Happens During Lyme Disease Testing
Lyme disease testing is usually done with your blood or cerebrospinal fluid.
For a Lyme disease blood test:
- 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 or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
If you have symptoms of Lyme disease affecting your nervous system, such as neck stiffness and numbness in hands or feet, you may need a test of cerebrospinal fluid . CSF is a clear liquid found in your brain and spinal cord. During this test, your CSF will be collected through a procedure called a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap. During the procedure:
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Future Possibilities For Diagnostic Tools
NIAID-supported scientists have identified genome sequences for multiple strains of B. burgdorferi. Greater advances in diagnostics are anticipated as genetic information is combined with advances in microarray technology, imaging, and proteomics. These growing fields of science are expected to lead to improved diagnostic tools as well as provide new insights on the pathogenesis of Lyme disease. Examples of tools being developed with NIAID support include use of metabolomics to characterize new biomarkers of infection, next generation T-cell based measurements, and novel antigens for improved measurement of effective treatment.
How Do You Get Lyme Disease
There is actually only one underlying cause of Lyme disease: an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is spread through the bites of infected ticks, including the deer tick and the western blacklegged tick.
“Lyme disease transmission happens when an infected tick bites you and remains attached for long enough to have a blood meal and become fully engorged,” says Dr. Kuritzkes. According to the CDC, ticks usually must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before Lyme disease bacteria can be transmitted to their host.
“In the process of sucking the blood from the person, it’s also releasing the bacteria from its salivary glands into the person’s body,” says Dr. Kuritzkes. “If you can discover and remove the tick earlier, before it’s had a chance to do this for very long, you’re much less likely to be infected.”
If a person is infected with Lyme disease, they may begin to show symptoms between three and 30 days after transmission. They may develop a red, circular rash with a white center that looks like a bull’s eye, although not everyone gets this telltale symptom.
Lyme disease can also cause flu-like symptoms, including a low-grade fever, chills, and muscle aches. A blood test can diagnose Lyme disease, and most people feel better after a 10 to 21-day course of antibiotics.
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If My Dog Tests Positive Does He Need To Be Treated
The decision to treat Lyme disease is somewhat controversial since many infected dogs show no signs of illness. Factors that would support treatment include:
a moderate to high value of QC6 signs of illness compatible with Lyme disease at the time of testing a history of illness compatible with Lyme disease within the past year the presence of abnormal levels of protein in the urine.
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Lyme Disease Frequently Asked Questions
If you have not done so already, remove the tick with fine-tipped tweezers.
The chances that you might get Lyme disease from a single tick bite depend on the type of tick, where you acquired it, and how long it was attached to you. Many types of ticks bite people in the U.S., but only blacklegged ticks transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Furthermore, only blacklegged ticks in the highly endemic areas of the northeastern and north central U.S. are commonly infected. Finally, blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. This is why its so important to remove them promptly and to check your body daily for ticks if you live in an endemic area.
If you develop illness within a few weeks of a tick bite, see your health care provider right away. Common symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash, fever, body aches, facial paralysis, and arthritis. Ticks can also transmit other diseases, so its important to be alert for any illness that follows a tick bite.
Moody KD, Barthold SW, 1991. Relative infectivity of Borrelia burgdorferi in Lewis rats by various routes of inoculation.Am J Trop Med Hyg 44: 135-9.
There are no reports of Lyme disease being spread to infants through breast milk. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease and are also breastfeeding, make sure that your doctor knows this so that he or she can prescribe an antibiotic thats safe for use when breastfeeding.
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Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person after being bitten by a tick.
Lyme disease occurs in stages. The signs and symptoms of each stage can overlap. In some people, Lyme disease may present in a later stage without a history of prior signs or symptoms.
The most commonly reported sign of Lyme disease is an expanding skin rash that typically begins at the site of the tick bite. This rash is called erythema migrans. It slowly grows to more than 5 cm in diameter over several days, and can sometimes:
- be circular or oval-shaped
- look like a target or bull’s eye
- go unnoticed, especially if it’s on:
- a part of the body that’s difficult to see
Some people may not develop a rash.
Other early signs and symptoms include:
If left untreated, the infection could spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.
Images of erythema migrans rash
Image 1Footnote a: A rash that looks like a bull’s eye at the site of a tick bite.
Image 2Footnote a: An oval-shaped red rash.
Image 3Footnote a: A red rash that has expanded across the width of a limb.
Image 4Footnote a: A red rash and blisters on a forearm.
Image 5Footnote b: A rash on a shoulder.
Image 6Footnote c: A rash on the back of a knee.
- Footnote a
Later symptoms of Lyme disease can appear days to months after an infected tick bite, and may include:
- more rashes
- migratory pain that spreads in the:
Other later stage symptoms include:
What Is The Difference Between This Indirect Blood Diagnostic Test And A Direct Test
Direct diagnostic tests measure the presence of the bacteria directly and are much more reliable than tests looking for indirect measurement of antibodies that measure a persons immune response to an infection. Lyme disease diagnoses and disease management would benefit from validated diagnostic tests that directly measure the infection such as a culture, PCR test, or antigen detection tests. Direct tests are vital to the management of other infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, strep, and COVID-19, but have not yet become widely available for Lyme disease.
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When Not To Take This Lyme Disease Test
Do not take this Lyme disease antibody test if:
- You are experiencing a round rash after a tick bite, such as the typical bullseye rash associated with early Lyme disease. Seek immediate medical attention instead of taking this test. A round rash could be a sign of Lyme disease, and it’s best to consult a medical professional and receive treatment as soon as possible to help prevent complications associated with the disease.
- You suspect you might have been infected with Lyme disease bacteria less than 6 weeks ago . The antibodies detected by this test take several weeks to build up in your bloodstream, taking the test before 6 weeks have passed may result in a false negative.
- You havenât lived in or traveled to an area where Lyme disease occurs. Consider discussing any symptoms with your healthcare providerâinstead of taking this testâto help determine if youâve been exposed to a Lyme disease bacterium.
- Youâve previously received a Lyme disease diagnosis, was treated for the disease, and are still symptomatic. Consider discussing any new or ongoing symptoms with your healthcare provider instead of taking this test.
- You are currently being treated for Lyme disease infection or taking antibiotic treatment for other infections. Consider discussing any symptoms with your healthcare provider instead of taking this test.
Because interpreting Lyme disease test results can be difficult, weâve designed your test results to be easy to read and understand.
Where Blacklegged Ticks Live
We continue to track where infected and uninfected blacklegged ticks are being found.
Public Health Ontarios Lyme disease page has a map that shows areas in Ontario where they estimate you are more likely to find blacklegged ticks.
Blacklegged ticks are spreading to new areas of the province because of climate change. They can also spread by traveling on birds and deer. While the probability is low, it is possible to find an infected tick almost anywhere in Ontario.
Ticks are most active in spring and summer, but can be found at any time of the year when the temperature is above freezing.
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Why It Is Done
A Lyme disease test is done to diagnose Lyme disease in people who have symptoms of Lyme disease. Symptoms may include:
- An expanding red rash with a pale centre. This is sometimes called a “bull’s eye” rash.
- Extreme tiredness.
- Headache and stiff neck.
- Muscle and joint pain.
Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease infection include joint pain, stiffness, and problems with the heart, brain, or nerves.
Testing is most accurate when you have risk factors for Lyme disease or symptoms of the disease.
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Her ordeal is a common one every year, some 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that number is on the rise. Some people wait months or years to get a correct Lyme diagnosis. And their cases highlight a problem: Tests for Lyme in the first month of infection are frequently wrong. When diagnosed and treated early the infection is a simple one to get rid of, but left untreated it can cause a myriad of lingering symptoms, from severe arthritis to short-term memory problems.
Now, a number of research groups are working to improve Lyme tests to catch infections in the early stages. One avenue being studied by the CDC aims to create a Lyme signature of small molecules in the blood an approach that, in early testing, catches a dramatically higher share of early infections.
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Other Lyme Disease Tests
Three other tests that may be used to diagnose Lyme disease are polymerase chain reaction , antigen detection and culture testing. They are called direct tests because they detect the bacteria, not just your immune response to it.
PCR multiplies a key portion of DNA from the Lyme bacteria so that it can be detected. While PCR is highly accurate when the Lyme DNA is detected, it produces many false negatives. This is because the Lyme bacteria are sparse and may not be in the sample tested.
Antigen detection tests look for a unique Lyme protein in fluid . Sometimes people whose indirect tests are negative are positive on this test.
Culture is the gold standard test for identifying bacteria. The lab takes a sample of blood or other fluid from the patient and attempts to grow Lyme spirochetes in a special medium.
Although culture tests are generally accepted as proof of infection, the CDC has advised caution on the only commercially available culture test developed by Advanced Laboratory Services. LDo recognizes that the test is new and requires further validation in other studies. However, we believe that informed patients should be able to choose the test if they prefer. Choice is particularly important given the low quality of Lyme disease tests generally.