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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Stage : Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
Late disseminated Lyme disease occurs when the infection hasnt been treated in stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 can occur months or years after the tick bite.
This stage is characterized by:
- arthritis of one or more large joints
- brain disorders, such as encephalopathy, which can cause short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental fogginess, problems with following conversations, and sleep disturbance
- numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
- park or wildlife management
The majority of tick bites happen in the summer when ticks are the most active and people spend more time outside. However, its also possible to get Lyme disease from tick bites in early fall, and even in late winter if the weather is unseasonably warm.
Lyme disease prevention mostly involves decreasing your risk of experiencing a tick bite.
Take the following steps to prevent tick bites:
Contact a doctor if and whenever a tick bites you or your loved ones.
How To Remove A Tick Safely
Although the risk of Lyme disease is very low in Alberta, there are other tick-borne diseases that can be transmitted by ticks.
It is important to properly remove a tick as soon as possible. Removing a tick 24 to 36 hours after a tick bite usually prevents Lyme disease from developing.
If a tick is attached to your skin, you can safely remove it.
- Using tweezers, gently grasp its head and mouth parts as close to your skin as possible to avoid leaving mouthparts in the skin or crushing the tick.
- Without squeezing the tick, slowly pull the tick straight up off the skin do not jerk or twist it.
- Do not apply matches, cigarettes, dish soap, petroleum jelly or any other substance to the tick. This will not encourage the tick to detach and may cause it to release infectious blood back into the wound.
- Once the tick has been removed, clean the bite area with soap and water and disinfect the area with an antiseptic. Wash hands with soap and water.
- Consider submitting a photograph of the tick to the Submit-a-Tick program.
- If you do not plan to submit a photograph of the tick to the Submit-a-Tick program, you can kill the tick by placing it in a freezer for 24 hours, or putting it in rubbing alcohol. Once killed, dispose of it by flushing it down the toilet, or placing it in the garbage. Avoid crushing a tick with your fingers as they may be filled with blood and other infectious material.
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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.
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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Does Lyme Disease Go Away On Its Own
It’s certainly possible for people to get Lyme disease and to clear the infection on their own, without treatment, said Dr. Kuritzkes. “But it’s better to be treated, because some of the complicationslike arthritis and myocarditis and damage to the central nervous systemcan be very serious.”
The type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease is in the same general family as the type that causes syphilis, said Dr. Kuritzkes. “That doesn’t mean anything similar in terms of transmission, but syphilis has several different phases, with primary and secondary and tertiary symptoms,” said Dr. Kuritzkes. “The infection can hide out in the body for a long time and can cause problems down the road if it’s not treated.”
How Do You Know If Your Lyme Disease Is Treated And Finished
Patients ask me this question all the time. We diagnose the disease, we treat with antibiotics, or herbs, or homeopathics. We feel better. We stop the treatment. And either we continue to feel better, or we relapse and have to start all over again.
Is there no way to test whether the spirochete is gone?
The Lyme disease.org website has an excellent article ondiagnosis of Lyme disease.
The National Geographic website has a good description of the deer tick, and thehistory of Lyme disease.
Standard Lyme testing includes the following:
- ELISA or IFA test
- If that test is positive, then a Western Blot test is run
- If 5 out of the 10 possible Lyme bands are positive, you are diagnosed with Lyme disease
- If fewer than 5 of the 10 possible bands are positive, you are diagnosed as negative.
Not all the bands which appear on a Western blot are specific to Lyme disease even though one ofthose non-specific bands is required by the CDC for diagnosis.
Two of the bands which are specific to Lyme disease are not on the CDC list of bands required to be positive.
How much sense does that make?
For more detailed information about the IFA and Western blot testing, check out theIGeneX website.
There is another test that can give us an idea whether the Lyme disease is actually gone out of our systems. This is an inflammatory marker, so it tells us whether there is continued inflammation or whether that inflammation is no longer present.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Tick bites are usually painless and most people do not know they have been bitten. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease vary greatly from person to person, and may appear anywhere between 3 to 30 days after a person has been bitten.
Symptoms often include:
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Skin rash.
One sign of infection can be an expanding rash, sometimes referred to as a “bull’s eye” rash because it may have rings spreading from the bite site ). It is important to note that rashes without the bull’s eye may occur, and that rashes do not appear in every case of Lyme disease infection.
The PHAC states that if left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur and can last from months to years. Severe symptoms may include:
- Severe headaches
- Additional EM skin rashes..
- Neurological disorders
- Nervous system disorders, including facial paralysis or Bell’s palsy .
- Intermittent muscle, joint, tendon, and bone aches
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and less commonly in other joints such as the ankle, elbow, and wrists.
If untreated, a condition called late disseminated Lyme disease may occur. PHAC reports symptoms include recurring arthritis , nervous system and/or neurological problems. Symptoms can also include numbness and/or paralysis . Deaths from Lyme disease are rare but may occur.
PHAC provides more information on Lyme Disease.
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.
* Silver HM. Lyme disease during pregnancy. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1997 Mar 11:93-7.
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Can You Get Lyme Disease From Other People Or Animals
“There’s 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 present in semen and vaginal secretions, which sparked fears that the disease could be passed between sexual partners. “But there’s never been a reported case of sexual transmission,” says Dr. Kuritzkes, and most experts don’t 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. There’s 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 it’s 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.
Is Treatment 100% Effective
Scientists are divided on this topic. Some studies suggest that that even long-term antibiotics may not completely clear infection dogs may get sick again at some point after antibiotic treatment is stopped. Other studies suggest that complete clearance of infection is possible with antibiotic treatment. Further research is required to answer this question.
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Problems With Testing For Lyme Disease
The problem is that Lyme disease is critically misunderstood by many people in the medical profession. Most doctors are not very well-versed in Lyme disease. Testing is not reliable. Many medical professionals are simply not educated about chronic Lyme disease to recognize and treat it. Conventional doctors often have a difficult time diagnosing, understanding, or treating something that they cannot see or isolate. Hence, Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment may be one of the most controversial and difficult issues in medicine. There are a lot of grey areas, a lot of misunderstandings, and unreliable testing, so going to a Lyme-literate practitioner is critical.
Lyme Disease Blood Test Results Fully Explained
The Lyme disease blood test is used to discover if someone who has the symptoms of a Borrelia burgdorferi infection actually has the bacteria in their bloodstream. Recent infections are much easier to detect and an IgM and IgG blood test will often be ordered as complimentary information gathering tools. This blood test does not always detect the presence of the disease, so patients that have persistent symptoms after having the test may be re-tested in a few weeks.
If any of these tests come back as positive, then other samples will be used to track the stage of the disease to determine if it has reached the chronic infection stage. At this point, a medical provider will order a Western blot test to confirm the presence of Lyme disease.
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Laboratory Tests That Are Not Recommended
Some laboratories offer Lyme disease testing using assays whose accuracy and clinical usefulness have not been adequately established. Examples of unvalidated tests include:
- Capture assays for antigens in urine
- Culture, immunofluorescence staining, or cell sorting of cell wall-deficient or cystic forms of B. burgdorferi
- Lymphocyte transformation tests
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How To Determine Where You Are
In my clinical experience, the best predictor of when treatment is done, or where you are in your treatment for Lyme or the coinfections is to follow the symptoms. If testing is negative, but you still have a lot of symptoms, then there is a good possibility, the germs are still active and require further treatment. For more information about how to determine to stop treatment see Finished? And How to Prevent Relapse.
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Lyme Disease And Other Tick Borne Illnesses
Ticks carry a number of diseases, most notably Lyme Disease. They can create significant health risks for humans and companion animals.
What diseases can ticks transmit?
Ticks can transmit a number of diseases including:
- Bourbon Virus
Which ticks transmit diseases? Any tick can transmit diseases, but certain diseases are linked with certain ticks. All of the above illnesses are associated with ticks that are present in New Jersey.
What is Lyme Disease? Lyme Disease is the most common tick borne illness in the United States. It is transmitted by the deer tick. A tick has to be present on the skin for at least about 48 hours to transmit the infection, so detection and removal of ticks is important in prevention.
How is Lyme disease treated? Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. First-line treatments include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime for adults and children. Sometimes IV antibiotics are used if the Lyme disease is impacting the heart or brain. Once a patient is showing improvement, they may be switched from IV to oral antibiotics. The treatment is 7 to 14 days. If a patient has developed Lyme arthritis, which can be a late-stage symptom of Lyme disease, they may have a longer course of oral antibiotics.
What are signs of tick borne illnesses?
Signs and symptoms of tick borne illnesses vary with the illness and can show up 7 to 21 days after exposure. They include:
- Red spots
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Investigation Of Suspected Lyme Disease
Erythema migrans is a clinical diagnosis and does not require confirmation by laboratory testing. Lyme disease is not a notifiable disease so there is no statutory requirement to notify clinically suspected cases to the local Health Protection Team.
The 2018 NICE Lyme disease guideline provides detailed advice about when a diagnosis of Lyme disease should be suspected and about which tests to use and when.
The NICE Lyme disease guideline also contains a useful summary diagram of the routine serological testing recommendations for Lyme disease.
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