Diagnosis Testing And Treatment
You may have heard that the blood test for Lyme disease is correctly positive only 65% of the time or less. This is misleading information. As with serologic tests for other infectious diseases, the accuracy of the test depends upon how long youve been infected. During the first few weeks of infection, such as when a patient has an erythema migrans rash, the test is expected to be negative.
Several weeks after infection, FDA cleared tests have very good sensitivity.
It is possible for someone who was infected with Lyme disease to test negative because:
If you are pregnant and suspect you have contracted Lyme disease, contact your physician immediately.
- Report being bitten by a tick, or
- Live in, or have recently visited, a tick-infested area.
Can Your Body Clear Lyme Disease On Its Own
It is possible a person with Lyme disease can clear the infection on their own, but its better to be treated because complications that can arise are very serious. For most people, the disease and its symptoms do not resolve without treatment. According to the CDC, there is no vaccination for Lyme disease.
Can Lyme Disease Be Detected By A Blood Test
In a word: yes!
A blood test does not only detect Lyme disease it is the most accurate and preferred test for diagnosing the disease. If a patient with Lyme disease shows signs that the central nervous system has been affected by the disease, western blot testing on the cerebrospinal fluid can be performed. If ordering from Walk-In Lab, a doctors note is not needed. Just pick your Lyme disease test and place your order online.
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An Early And Accurate Diagnosis Is Key
For patients and doctors, being aware of the many factors that can influence Lyme disease lab tests can better inform your perspective and reliance on the results. If Lyme disease test accuracy is a concern, doctors should consider multiple types of tests, a panel approach, to increase the chances of detecting the disease.
Additionally, they should always consider the patients Lyme disease test results in conjunction with their current or previously reported symptoms. Remember, Lyme disease causes symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Finally, doctors should also consider risk factors that heighten someones probability of exposure to ticks or regions where Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are prevalent.
For more information on getting the proper diagnosis and treatment for your tick-borne disease, read the IGeneX blogs The Importance of Getting the Right Diagnosis and How to Find Doctors Who Can Help with Your Tick-Borne Disease.
Getting An Initial Screening
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The Test Isnt Designed To Detect The Exact Disease
A number of Lyme disease lab tests are designed to identify only a few species of the Borrelia bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. In the United States, for example, many tests are only designed to detect Borrelia burgdorferi, leaving out many other species that are less common yet still known to cause the disease in humans, including the recently discovered B. mayonii.
In fact, a recent internal study showed exactly how easily tests could miss infections from species other than B. burgdorferi. IGeneX researchers tested 43 samples all positive on IGeneX Lyme ImmunoBlot tests using the more limited Western blots prepared from the following species of Borrelia:
- burgdorferi B31
When only a B. burgdorferi B31 Western Blot was performed, only 14 of the 43 Lyme ImmunoBlot-positive samples were Western-Blot-positive. In other words, the B. burgdoferi Western Blot missed 29 of the 43 infections. However, when all eight Western Blots were performed, the remaining twenty-nine samples were detected.
This inability of many lab tests to cast a wide enough net of detection could result in false-negative results for patients infected with different strains of disease-causing Borrelia.
Lyme Disease Test Western Blot
Labs performing a Western blot use electricity to separate proteins called antigens into bands. The read-out from the Western blot looks like a bar code. The lab compares the pattern produced by running the test with your blood to a template pattern representing known cases of Lyme disease. If your blot has bands in the right places, and the right number of bands, it is positive.
The CDC requires 5 out of 10 bands for a positive test result. However, because some bands on the Western blot are more significant than others your doctor may decide you have Lyme disease even if your Western blot does not have the number of bands or specific bands recommended by the CDC. Different laboratories use different methods and criteria for interpreting the test, so you can have a positive test result from one lab and a negative test result from another.
For a comprehensive explanation of the western blot test, download Understanding Western Blot Lyme disease test.
The chart below will help you understand how to interpret the western blot test.
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What Is Lyme Disease
This bacterial infection is spread through the bite of a young deer tick or black-legged tick. These eight-legged creatures, about the size of a poppy seed, can be found in wooded and grassy areas throughout the United States, especially in New England and the Rocky Mountains.
Because these ticks are so small, most people donât realize when theyâre bitten. But the longer a tick stays attached to you, the more likely it is to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi , if the tick is a carrier.
High Endemicity Constitutional Symptoms No Erythema Migrans Rash
A patient from an area of high endemicity of Lyme disease presents with fever, headache, and arthralgias that had lasted several weeks, but no erythema migrans rash. After a thorough clinical evaluation, the cause of the symptoms remains unresolved.
The physician should consider serologic testing with the complete two-step approach. For this patient, the pretest probability is moderately low, taking into account the endemicity of the disease and the presence of prolonged , unexplained nonspecific symptoms. In this scenario, if the two-step approach is positive, the probability of Lyme disease is about 90 percent. Although testing probably is beneficial in this type of patient, this has not been proven. There is no clear evidence that treatment is beneficial in patients with Lyme disease who exhibit only nonspecific symptoms.
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How Can I Tell If Treatment Is Working
If joint lameness is the presenting sign, improvement may be noted after 3-5 days starting antibiotics. A dog’s response to therapy can be assessed by repeating the QC6 test six months after treatment is complete. Dogs that start with a moderate to high QC6 value typically show a 50% reduction or more in the QC6 at six months, indicating that treatment has been successful. Dogs that have a lower initial QC6 value may not show such dramatic reductions in the QC6 at six months, although the value should still be lower than the starting point if treatment has been successful.
A persistently high QC6 suggests treatment may not have been complete or that the dog became reinfected after treatment was stopped.
Explanation Of Lyme Titer Blood Test Results
Lyme titer blood testing is very similar to other titer tests for different diseases. When an illness strikes, the body creates antibodies to combat the invader. Bacteria, viruses, fungi theyre all treated the same. The goal is to kill off the invader to restore health. Lyme disease can be particularly difficult to detect or treat because the bacteria can actually create a shell which prevents the antibodies from attacking it. Thats where this blood test can become quite helpful.
Lyme disease takes two forms: active and chronic. The chronic infection can be particularly devastating because they symptoms may be vague, but progressive and potentially debilitating. Chronic infections may even affect the heart. It is spread by ticks and creates a distinctive bulls-eye rash at the infection site, but up to half of people dont experience this symptom. This test can determine if antibodies are present, if theyve ever been present, and how active the infection happens to be.
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Key Points To Remember
- Most Lyme disease tests are designed to detect antibodies made by the body in response to infection.
- Antibodies can take several weeks to develop, so patients may test negative if infected only recently.
- Antibodies normally persist in the blood for months or even years after the infection is gone therefore, the test cannot be used to determine cure.
- Infection with other diseases, including some tickborne diseases, or some viral, bacterial, or autoimmune diseases, can result in false positive test results.
- Some tests give results for two types of antibody, IgM and IgG. Positive IgM results should be disregarded if the patient has been ill for more than 30 days.
What Abnormal Results Mean
A positive ELISA result is abnormal. This means antibodies were seen in your blood sample. But, this does not confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease. A positive ELISA result must be followed up with a Western blot test. Only a positive Western blot test can confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease.
For many people, the ELISA test remains positive, even after they have been treated for Lyme disease and no longer have symptoms.
A positive ELISA test may also occur with certain diseases not related to Lyme disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
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Can A Dog Still Get Lyme Disease Even If Vaccinated
Lyme disease vaccines do not cause Lyme disease, and they do not prevent disease development in dogs already infected. It is important to know that both types of vaccines are only about 80% effective in preventing Lyme disease. In other words, about 20% of vaccinated dogs can still become infected with Lyme disease.
Is There A Lyme Disease Test Kit
Blood collection kits are available for at-home Lyme disease testing. Lyme disease test kits can cost as less as $20 and as much as $100 or more. Using a Lyme disease test kit is as simple as pricking your finger and smearing or collecting the blood onto the kit for testing.
However, testing for Lyme disease in a more controlled environment such as a lab or clinic is preferable as qualified healthcare professionals are likely to perform a more reliable test.
Waddell L. A., et al. . The accuracy of diagnostic tests for Lyme disease in humans, a systematic review and meta-analysis of North American research. PLoS One. 2016 11: e0168613. Retrieved from
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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.
How Can I Get Rid Of Lyme Disease Fast
A 14- to 21-day course of antibiotics is usually recommended, but some studies suggest that courses lasting 10 to 14 days are equally effective. Intravenous antibiotics. If the disease involves the central nervous system, your doctor might recommend treatment with an intravenous antibiotic for 14 to 28 days.Oct 24, 2020
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The Role Of Lyme Disease Tests
The purpose of the most common type of Lyme disease testing is to determine whether you have developed antibodies as a result of past exposure to the Borrelia bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system that target specific threats like bacteria and viruses.
Blood testing alone cannot determine whether you have Lyme disease. Instead, testing can provide helpful information that your doctor can consider along with other factors, such as any symptoms youve had and whether youve been exposed to ticks that can carry Borrelia, to determine if a diagnosis of Lyme disease is appropriate.
Beyond blood testing, it is possible to analyze fluid from the central nervous system for signs of the Borrelia bacteria.
When Should I Get Checked For Lyme Disease
Generally, it is best to get tested for Lyme disease if you live where ticks are common or have recently visited such areas. Most certainly, you should get tested if you suspect that a tick has bitten you. It is important to talk to your doctor if you think you have any of the following early Lyme disease symptoms:
- A rash resembling a bulls eye on the spot where youve been bitten
Other symptoms dont show up immediately. Sometimes, it takes up to a few weeks or months after the tick bite to notice the following:
- Swelling on the joints or severe joint pain
- Tingling in the feet and hands
- Shortness of breath
While it is okay get checked early, Lyme disease test results numbers are more authentic a few weeks after youve been bitten by a carrier-tick. Your body would have developed antibodies within that period, and that can make it easier to detect the disease.
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How To Read Lyme Test Results
This article was medically reviewed by Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS. Sarah Gehrke is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist in Texas. Sarah has over 10 years of experience teaching and practicing phlebotomy and intravenous therapy using physical, psychological, and emotional support. She received her Massage Therapist License from the Amarillo Massage Therapy Institute in 2008 and a M.S. in Nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2013.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 14,293 times.
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, it’s normal to feel nervous that you might have contracted Lyme disease. There is a two-step process recommended by the CDC to test for Lyme. The process tests your blood for evidence of antibodies your body produces to resist spirochete bacteria, which causes Lyme disease.XResearch source Your health care provider will first review your symptoms. Depending on your condition, you’ll be given an initial screening. The more detailed “Western blot” test will be done if the initial screening indicates a positive result.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source
What Is The Most Accurate Test For Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is more common than many people think. Figures from the Center for Disease Control suggest that roughly 300,000 Lyme disease cases occur every year in the US.
The numbers are alarming, but it gets worse as finding accurate diagnostic tests can be challenging. Although the disease is treatable, it is nearly impossible to tackle it effectively if it is not diagnosed accurately and early enough.
Late detection can lead to severe health problems such as arthritis, heart blockage, and inability to concentrate, among other problems.
Given the prevalence and seeming elusiveness of the disease, some of the logical questions concerned persons would ask are: what is the most accurate test for Lyme disease? And when should I get checked for Lyme disease? This article will proffer answers to these and many other related questions. But first, a little background would be in order.
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