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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Could You Have Lyme Disease And Not Even Know It
The scary truth about this sneaky illness.
After you get home from a glorious summer hike, you probably do a few things: post photos of the great outdoors to Instagram, take a quick shower, and chow down on some post-workout snacks. But if checking yourself for ticks isn’t a part of that routine, you might be leaving yourself open to Lyme disease. “It happens frequently that people have Lyme disease and don’t know it,” says Andrea Gaito, M.D., a rheumatologist with a private practice in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites, especially those from deer ticks. Approximately 70 percent of deer ticks are infected, says Gaito. And those of you in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania should be on high-alert: Your states have the highest rates of Lyme disease, which is much more manageable when caught early on, says Gaito.
It sounds pretty scary, but there are ways to figure out if you’ve got Lyme disease before it really has its hooks in youor even prevent it in the first place. Here’s what to look out for.
What You Need To Know About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the spiral-shaped bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is most commonly transmitted by a tick bite.
There are over 300,000 estimated new cases of Lyme disease in the United States each year.
The symptoms of Lyme disease depend on the how long the infection has been present in the body. The first sign of Lyme disease is often an expanding round or oval red “bullseye” rash.
If left untreated, people may develop neurological symptoms and heart problems, and have an approximately 60 percent chance of developing Lyme arthritis.
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How Do You Get Lyme Disease
You get Lyme disease by being bitten by an infected black-legged tickeither the black-legged deer tick or the western black-legged tick. Ticks that are infected can attach to any part of your body and are most commonly found in areas that are hard to seeyour scalp, armpits, or groin area.
In most cases, the infected tick must be attached to your body for at least 36-48 hours to transmit the bacterium.
Welcome To The School Of Lyme 6 Tips For Those Newly Diagnosed With Lyme Disease
Every day, I receive emails from people who have recently been diagnosed with Lyme disease. As most of us do when we hear a new medical term or leave a doctors office, these people frantically search the web looking for information. Sometimes they come across one of my blog posts. Then they write with questions about treatment, with requests for finding a good doctor and with prayers that I will be able to offer them some hope. Most of all, they want to know: What do I do to get better?
Because I find myself offering the same responses to many such patients, I thought I would create a School of Lyme For the Newly Diagnosed. Consider this a brief survey course on tick-borne illness, open to anyone who wants to learn the basics of what to do when you get a Lyme diagnosis.
Lesson 1: Its Lyme, not Lymes!
Its important to know the correct name of your disease! Many people mistakenly call it Lymes disease, assuming it was discovered by a Dr. Lyme. In fact, Lyme is named for the town in which it was first detected: Lyme, Connecticut. As for the names of co-infections, those are not as simple, but should still be part of your working vocabulary well get to those in Lesson 5.
Lesson 2: All cases are different
Lesson 3: Find an LLMD
Lesson 4: Get tested for co-infections
Lesson 5: Take probiotics
Lesson 6: Dont panic
Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.
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How Do I Know If I Have Lyme Disease Will I Get A Rash
Lyme Disease presents itself in three stages, though the symptoms within each stage can overlap and a person can find themselves in stage 2 without having experienced the symptoms of stage 1.
Stage 1: Early Localized
The first sign is typically an expanding round or oval red “bullseye” rash that occurs at the site of the tick bite. This circle-ish rash, called erythema migrans, develops in about 70-80% of cases. It slowly grows, reaching 12 inches or more. The rash is not painful, does not itch, may be warm to the touch, and will gradually fade in most people.
Other symptoms of Stage 1 Lyme disease include fever, headache, and fatigue.
Stage 2: Early Disseminated
Lyme disease reaches this stage if it wasnt detected during stage 1, either because symptoms werent present or it wasnt found and treated. Symptoms of Stage 2 may appear within weeks to months after the initial infection and can include severe headaches or fainting, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints, heart and central nervous system problems, and poor memory and reduced ability to concentrate.
Stage 3: Late Disseminated
If Lyme disease isnt properly treated, it reaches stage 3. Damage to the joints, nerves, or brain may occur, as well as problems with memory, mood, sleep, and sometimes even speaking.
How You Get Lyme Disease
If a tick bites an animal carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, the tick can become infected. The tick can then transfer the bacteria to a human by biting them.
Ticks can be found in any areas with deep or overgrown plants where they have access to animals to feed on.
They’re common in woodland and moorland areas, but can also be found in gardens or parks.
Ticks don’t jump or fly. They climb on to your clothes or skin if you brush against something they’re on. They then bite into the skin and start to feed on your blood.
Generally, you’re more likely to become infected if the tick is attached to your skin for more than 24 hours. Ticks are very small and their bites are not painful, so you may not realise you have one attached to your skin.
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Chronic Lyme Dos And Donts
Chronic Lyme disease is an ongoing Borrelia burgdorferi infection that can involve any body system or tissue. The infection produces a wide range of symptoms and signs, which can be debilitating for some patients. Common symptoms include severe fatigue, migratory musculoskeletal pain, headaches, and impaired memory. Unfortunately, chronic Lyme disease is complex and often misunderstood, which means that many patients will struggle to obtain the care they need to regain their health. Every patient concerned about Lyme disease and tick-borne illness should know the following.
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Later Signs Of Lyme Disease
What if Lyme disease isnt detected early on? The longer that disease-causing bacteria linger in the body, the more they disseminate, and as these microbes spread to tissues throughout the body, they can trigger a litany of symptoms. CDC says these may include:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes. These lesions may pop up on other areas of the body
- A type of facial paralysis known as Bells palsy
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling. Knees and other large joints are vulnerable
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
You might have persistent or episodic symptoms, says Dr. Green. Pain that seems to move through the body? Thats common too. The hallmark of late Lyme is migratory joint pain: today my right knee hurts and tomorrow Im limping on my left ankle, and, oh, my third finger of my right hand swelled up, and, oh, my neck has swelled up, she says.
In rare cases, Lyme disease bacteria can enter the tissues of the heart. This complication, called Lyme carditis, can lead to lightheadedness, fainting, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or chest pain.
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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.external iconAm 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.
What If A Tick Bites My Dog
The more ticks in your region, the likelier it is that your furry pal will bring them home.
Your dog is much more likely to be bitten by a tick than you are. And where Lyme disease is common, up to 25% of dogs have had it at some point.
About 10% of dogs with Lyme disease will get sick. 7-21 days after a tick bite, your dog might seem like theyâre walking on eggshells. They also might have a fever and enlarged lymph nodes. Plus, they might seem tired. Dogs also get antibiotics for Lyme.
What if my dog brings ticks into my home?
Use a tick control product on your pet to prevent Lyme disease. Also, have your dog vaccinated against Lyme.
Check your dogâs whole body each day for bumps. If you notice a swollen area, see if thereâs a tick there. If you find a tick, wear gloves while you use tweezers to separate it from your dog. Then, put it in soapy water or alcohol, or flush it down the toilet.
Use alcohol to clean the spot on your dog where the tick was attached. Keep an eye on that spot, and also on your dog to make sure theyâre behaving normally. If you notice any changes, check with your vet.
John Aucott, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine director, Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: âVital Signs: Trends in Reported Vectorborne Disease Cases — United States and Territories, 2004-2016.â
American College of Rheumatology.
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Late Persistent Lyme Disease
Late persistent Lyme disease usually occurs in those who did not receive early treatment. Its the most severe stage and can occur months to years following the initial infection. Damage to the joints, nerves, and brain is possible if not treated.
Muscle and joint pain is the most common complaint of those in late-stage Lyme disease, affecting 80% of untreated people. Lyme arthritis, which occurs in 50% of cases, can cause swelling and pain, usually in one knee, but can be present in both knees or other large joints.
Various neurological symptoms can occur depending on the area of the nervous system affected. Some symptoms may be similar to stage 2 but can be more extensive, severe, or longer-lasting. If the infection has traveled to the brain, you may experience:
- Difficulty following conversations and processing information
- Mental fogginess
- Trouble sleeping
- Vertigo or dizziness
Oral antibiotics are typically used for Lyme arthritis, while intravenous antibiotics treat neurologic issues. The length of therapy can be two to four weeks, depending on the symptoms.
How Stephanie Got Answers
About four years ago, Tait started to suspect she had Lyme disease. A family friend had Lyme, and Tait recognized some of her own symptoms appearing in her friend. She asked her doctor for an ELISA, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or a blood test thats typically the first way doctors test patients who may have Lyme disease. When she learned her insurance wouldnt cover the cost, she paid for the test out of pocket. It came back negative.
Tait, however, wasnt convinced. She asked for another test, but she said the doctor refused. So she turned to a private lab for a second test, this one a Western Blot, which doctors typically turn to next, to verify a positive ELISA result. That test was positive for the Lyme antibodies.
I sobbed, because there it was in my hands that I wasnt just jumping to conclusions, Tait said. I walked back into my doctors office and said, Here it is. They said, Well, we didnt do this test, so how do we know? I said, Youve got to be kidding me. I have a lab test!
Tait started getting treatment at a private clinic in Idaho that specializes in treating Lyme disease, about a six-hour drive from where she lives.
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics, and when treated early, people with Lyme usually recover completely. Taits treatment plan included antibiotics, immunotherapy, various supplements as well as dietary changes. But because she had been sick for so long, some of her health problems were irreversible.
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Chronic Lyme: What Happens When Lyme Goes Untreated
The Lyme community typically uses the term chronic Lyme disease to describe a range of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms that crop up after getting Lyme disease and persist for months to years after infection.
The risk of chronic Lyme increases the longer a Lyme infection goes untreated or undertreated. In other words, patients are more likely to recover fully if their Lyme infection is detected and treated as early as possible after the discovery of a tick bite. This stage is usually marked by symptoms such as fevers, chills, muscle aches, and sometimes rashes.
When left untreated or undertreated, however, Lyme disease can spread throughout the body and affect:
- The central nervous system
- Muscles and joints
As Lymedisease.org points out, these symptoms can evolve, disappear, and reappear at different times.
What If My Symptoms Continue Or Come Back After Treatment
Follow-up is a mainstay of care for patients with Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. If symptoms have not resolved, if they return after treatment is stopped, or if new symptoms develop, it is important for your healthcare provider to consider persistent infection as a possible cause of your illness. The bacteria that cause Lyme disease have been shown in the lab as well as in animal and human studies to be able to survive despite antibiotic treatment.
Make sure to discuss other conditions and symptoms with your doctor. A provider must take into account pre-existing conditions, other illnesses, as well as co-infections from other tick-borne organisms, when mapping out a treatment course.
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Who Is At Risk For Lyme Disease
Anyone can get a tick bite. But people who spend lots of time outdoors in wooded, grassy areas are at a higher risk. This includes campers, hikers, and people who work in gardens and parks.
Most tick bites happen in the summer months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors. But you can get bitten in the warmer months of early fall, or even late winter if temperatures are unusually high. And if there is a mild winter, ticks may come out earlier than usual.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
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Lyme disease is an underreported, under-researched, and often debilitating disease transmitted by spirochete bacteria. The spiral-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, are transmitted by blacklegged deer ticks. Lymes wide range of symptoms mimic those of many other ailments, making it difficult to diagnose .
The blacklegged ticks can also transmit other disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These are known as coinfections . These ticks that transmit Lyme are increasing their geographical spread. As of 2016, they were found in about half the counties in 43 of 50 states in the United States .
Lyme is the fifth most reported of notifiable diseases in the United States, with an estimated 329,000 new cases found annually . Some studies estimate that there are as many as 1 million cases of Lyme in the United States every year .
Most people with Lyme who are treated right away with three weeks of antibiotics have a good prognosis.
But if youre not treated for weeks, months, or even years after infection, Lyme becomes more difficult to treat. Within days of the bite, the bacteria can move to your central nervous system, muscles and joints, eyes, and heart .
Here is a list of 13 common signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.
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