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.
Do I Need To See An Infectious Disease Specialist To Get Tested For Lyme Disease
No, you do not need to see an infectious disease specialist.
As noted above, any type of physician should be able to order the correct diagnostic tests, interpret your test results, and provide antibiotics to treat Lyme disease. This is especially true the earlier the disease is caught.
In fact, American Lyme Disease Foundation points out that waiting for an appointment with an infectious disease or other type of specialist can actually delay your diagnosis and treatment. If you were bitten by a tick, notice symptoms of Lyme disease, or believe youre at risk for Lyme or another tick-borne disease, its important that you make an appointment with a doctor immediately even if its your primary care physician.
That said, there are plenty of reasons why you may want to consult with, or get a second opinion from, someone with specific experience with Lyme disease. In other words, you may want to make an appointment with a Lyme-literate doctor . Read on to learn more.
Can You Get Lyme Disease From Other People Or Animals
Theres no evidence that Lyme disease can be transmitted sexually or by touching or kissing a person who has it, says Dr. Kuritzkes. One widely reported study from 2014 found that the bacterium that transmits Lyme disease could be , which sparked fears that the disease could be passed between sexual partners. But theres never been a reported case of sexual transmission, says Dr. Kuritzkes, and most experts dont believe you can catch Lyme disease in this way.
In rare cases, Lyme disease has been transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus or placenta. Fortunately, according to the CDC, treating an infected woman with antibiotics seems to protect the fetus from any negative effects. Theres also no evidence that Lyme disease can be passed through breastfeeding.
And while there have been no reports of Lyme disease being transmitted through a blood transfusion, scientists say it could potentially happenso people who are being treated for Lyme disease should not donate blood.
Dogs are less likely to be bitten by deer and western blacklegged ticks, although it does happenso its still important to check your pets after time spent outdoors and to remove any ticks you find. You can also talk to your veterinarian about preventive treatments that can reduce the risk of your pets being bitten by ticks or about a vaccine that can protect dogs from the disease.
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How Do I Get Started
The sooner you get started, the sooner you can feel relief from Lyme symptoms. Call a Lyme disease doctor and begin the consultation process today. You deserve treatment from a top specialist, one who can get you back to living your best life soon.
If you have questions that arent on this list, write them down, so you dont forget to ask them during your consultation. Dont wait another day to seek treatment that works.
Other Infections Associated With Tick Bites
Ticks can carry a number of other bacterial and viral infectious agents, sometimes at the same time as the Lyme disease organisms. In the eastern part of the United States, babesiosis and ehrlichiosis may occur independently or with Lyme disease after tick bites.
Transmission of more than one agent in Europe and the UK is rare, with only a handful of cases reported with definite evidence of co-infection.
In other parts of the world, viruses such as tick-borne encephalitis virus can cause infections that may be mistaken for Lyme disease. Depending on where the patient was exposed, other infections may also give rise to symptoms similar to Lyme disease.
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Diagnosis Of Lyme Disease
Many cases of Lyme disease are initially misdiagnosed. Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose because early symptoms of fever, severe fatigue, and achiness are also common in many other illnesses. In addition, diagnostic blood tests are not always dependable, particularly in early disease. However, the round expanding red lesion rash is a unique sign that is more specific for Lyme disease, and many times a diagnosis can be made based on the tell-tale erythema migrans rash itself. Yet, it is important to understand that the erythema migrans rash is not always present or recognizable, and symptoms can fluctuate.
Think the Lyme disease rash is always a bulls-eye? Think again.Think its a spider bite? Think again. Please refer to our poster of varied rash manifestations as a helpful Lyme disease rash identification tool.
Recognizing the Lyme disease erythema migrans rash can be crucial to early diagnosis and treatment.
Despite common belief, the stereotypical ring within a ring bullseye rash is only present in a minority of Lyme disease patients. Instead, the majority of Lyme disease rashes are uniformly red or blue-red and do not have a central clearing or bullseye. Sometimes the site of the tick bite is clearly visible in the center of this lesion. The erythema migrans rash is almost always round or oval and expands over days to a diameter greater than 2. The Lyme rash is often confused with a spider bite, despite spider bites not expanding in this way.
How Do You Diagnose The Later Stages Of Lyme Disease
Disseminated Lyme disease, due to unsuccessful or delayed treatment, can become disabling. The bacteria can leave the skin where it was initially inoculated by the tick and travel through the bloodstream to numerous systems of the body, primarily joints, heart, brain, muscles and the nervous system.
Late disseminated Lyme disease has a wide range of presentations including joint pain, extreme fatigue, neuromuscular pain, cardiac problems, headaches, and other central nervous system dysfunction. There are some distinguishable signs of later stage Lyme disease including facial palsy in the second stage, and swollen knees in the third stage that are somewhat specific for Lyme disease, but not absolutely, because there are other causes of Bells Palsy and swollen knees.
Diagnosis can be confirmed by serology blood tests which measure the antibodies that are formed by the immune system in response to the Lyme disease bacterial infection. Collection of cerebrospinal fluid by lumbar puncture may be indicated in neurologic cases that may involve the central nervous system.
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Are There Any Risks To Lyme Disease Tests
There is very little risk to having a blood test or a lumbar puncture.
With a blood test, you may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
With a CSF test, you may feel a little pinch or pressure when the needle is inserted. After the test, you may feel some pain or tenderness in your back where the needle was inserted.
You may also have some bleeding at the site or get a headache. The headache may last for several hours or up to a week or more, but your provider may suggest treatment to help relieve the pain.
The Chance Of Getting Lyme Disease
Not all ticks in England carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
But it’s still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible, just in case.
Ticks that may cause Lyme disease are found all over the UK, but high-risk places include grassy and wooded areas in southern and northern England and the Scottish Highlands.
Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures that live in woods, areas with long grass, and sometimes in urban parks and gardens. They’re found all over the UK.
Ticks do not jump or fly. They attach to the skin of animals or humans that brush past them.
Once a tick bites into the skin, it feeds on blood for a few days before dropping off.
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Antibiotics Cant Kill Parasites
Lyme bacteria love to hide inside parasites. Just like you, parasites have a microbiota. You may have a mix of good and bad microbes in your gut. But parasites are a Pandoras box of terrible microbes one being Lyme.
Even if you get rid of Lyme in the rest of your body, the bacteria hiding in parasites can reinfect you. This is why the disease may come back, despite long and intense antibiotic treatment. But the Lyme inside the parasites is protected and will reinfect the host. It may be impossible to conquer Lyme without getting rid of the Lyme carrying parasites because its addressing the infection in the wrong order.
Antibiotics also do not always travel past the blood/brain barrier. If the Lyme disease bacteria have settled there, they may not be affected at all.
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The Different Types Of Doctors Who Can Test For Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a tick-borne infectious disease caused by a group of spiral-shaped bacteria we now refer to as Lyme borreliae. This includes, but is not limited to, Borrelia burgdorferi. It is treatable with antibiotics, but in order to have the best chance at full recovery, its crucial to get your disease diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. That means finding the right doctor.
But what kind of doctor tests for Lyme disease? You may be wondering if you need to see a specific kind of physician to get the right test and treatment. The answer can depend on your particular situation.
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Lyme Disease Diagnosis And Testing Highlights
- LLMDS consider the specificity of the particular bands that test positive for a patient.
- Although the CDC requires 5 of 10 bands for IgG surveillance purposes, 2 of 5 bands have specificity of 93-96% and a sensitivity of 100%. .
- 56% of patients with Lyme disease test negative using the two-tiered testing system recommended by the CDC.
- The CDC case surveillance definition allows single-tier IgG immunoblot seropositivity using established criteria.
- The CDC states: This surveillance case definition was developed for national reporting of Lyme disease it is not intended to be used in clinical diagnosis.
- The College of American Pathologists found that ELISA tests do not have adequate sensitivity to be used for screening purposes.
- 52% of patients with chronic disease are negative by ELISA but positive by Western blot.
Do I Need A Lyme Disease Test
Your doctor will consider whether your symptoms and risk factors suggest Lyme disease when deciding whether you need a Lyme test. Laboratory tests can support a clinical diagnosis, but should not be used on their own to confirm or rule out a current Lyme disease diagnosis.
Your doctor may also do tests to see if other conditions with similar or overlapping symptoms for example, thyroid disease, autoimmune disease, or other tick-borne diseases could be causing your symptoms. If you have been traveling, your doctor might test you for species of Borrelia that cause Lyme disease in other parts of the world.
If you think you may have Lyme disease, but your doctor hasnt considered it or has ruled it out before testing you for it, heres how you can start a conversation: Give your doctor a list of Lyme disease symptoms and risk factors , and ask them if, given your own symptoms and risk factors, Lyme disease could be a possible cause and whether you should be tested.
In some cases, a Lyme test may not be helpful. Using todays tests it is difficult to distinguish between current and previous infections, so if you were previously diagnosed with Lyme disease and may have been re-infected, your doctor should make the diagnosis based on your symptoms and risk factors.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Untreated Lyme Disease
Seek medical attention if you observe any of these symptoms and have had a tick bite, live in an area known for Lyme disease, or have recently traveled to an area where Lyme disease occurs.
Untreated Lyme disease can produce a wide range of symptoms, depending on the stage of infection. These include fever, rash, facial paralysis, and arthritis.
The appearance of the erythema migrans rash can vary widely.
- Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes may occur in the absence of rash
- Erythema migrans rash :
- Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
- Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days
- Expands gradually over several days reaching up to 12 inches or more across
- May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
- Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or bulls-eye appearance
- May appear on any area of the body
- Does not always appear as a classic erythema migrans rash
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat
- Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
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Learn More About Lyme Disease Diagnosis Testing
Tests can not only help to diagnose a disease, but also to manage an illness. A good test can help a doctor assess the severity of disease, estimate the patients prognosis, monitor the course of disease progression, stability or resolution, detect relapse, and select drugs or adjust therapy. Unfortunately, a test with this capability does not exist for Lyme disease. To learn more about specific tests, visit: Lyme Disease Tests.
LymeDisease.org has developed a Lyme disease symptom checklist to help you document your exposure to Lyme disease and common symptoms for your healthcare provider. You will receive a report that you can print out and take with you to your next doctors appointment that may be helpful in your Lyme disease diagnosis.
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How To Avoid Tick Bites
To reduce the chance of being bitten:
- cover your skin while walking outdoors and tuck your trousers into your socks
- use insect repellent on your clothes and skin products containing DEET are best
- stay on clear paths whenever possible
- wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to see and brush off
What Kind Of Doctor Tests For Lyme Disease
In fact, any kind of doctor can test you for Lyme disease. However, that doesnt mean its a good idea to have your dermatologist or podiatrist order the diagnostic tests. Many people simply see their family physician or primary care doctor to get diagnosed and treated for Lyme.
There are also doctors who specialize in Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, called Lyme-literate doctors, who you may want to consult instead more on that a little later in this article.
Finally, there are other types of specialists you may or may not need to consult with depending on the duration and severity of your symptoms.
For example, many patients wonder if they need to see an infectious disease specialist.
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The Most Common Lyme Disease Blood Tests
The two most common diagnostic tests for Lyme disease are the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and the Western blot. These Lyme disease tests allow physicians to visualize the reaction between antibodies in an infected persons blood to specific antigens or parts of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
In the case of the Western blot, for example, antigens are separated by size and then transferred onto a membrane strip. When an antibody reacts with an antigen on the strip, that band will turn dark purple. For test results to be positive, a specific combination of bands on the membrane strip must be present.
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed
An EM rash is a sure sign of Lyme disease, so your doctor can diagnose and treat you without the need for laboratory tests.
An EM rash, often shaped like a bullseye , is a sure sign of Lyme disease. If you develop an EM rash, you should be diagnosed & treated for Lyme disease without the need for further lab tests. EM rashes are not as obvious on darker skin .
For all other cases, your doctor should consider whether your symptoms and risk factors point to a Lyme disease diagnosis. For example:
Were you bitten by a tick?
Did you spend time outdoors in an area where Lyme disease is common?
Recent travel: Lyme disease may be common where you were, even if it is unusual where you live.
Your current symptoms and how long have they been present.
Your full medical history, including previous unexplained symptoms that may help lead to an accurate diagnosis whether that ends up being Lyme or another condition.
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Stages Of Lyme Disease And Their Common Symptoms
If you have already been diagnosed with Lyme disease, learning about Lyme stages can help you know what symptoms you might experience. Youll also be able to watch for signs that could mean that your Lyme disease has progressed. Lyme disease symptoms are more likely to progress if you have not been appropriately treated.
If you dont have a Lyme disease diagnosis, its helpful to know that Lyme disease can cause a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms throughout your body. If you develop symptoms listed below, especially after youve gotten a tick bite or spent time in an area where Lyme disease is common, you can ask your doctor whether you might have Lyme disease and if you should be tested for it. .
There are three stages of Lyme disease. Early localized, or Stage 1, Lyme disease occurs soon after being infected, when Lyme bacteria are still close to the site of the tick bite. Common symptoms of early localized Lyme disease include a rash or mild, flulike symptoms. Over time the Lyme bacteria can spread, or disseminate, to other parts of the body, causing more serious symptoms associated with early disseminated or late disseminated Lyme disease. This is more likely if you are not diagnosed and treated early.