Family Doctor: Lyme disease testing varies

Excerpted from  ( Posted: 07/30/2011 ) 

Q: I am a 39-year-old female recently diagnosed with Lyme disease.

I happened to get information through a friend that there are actually two types of Lyme tests and that one is much more accurate than the other. I then went to a specialist who ordered the more sensitive test and discovered that I do, indeed, have Lyme.

Please tell your readers about the two types of test as well as Lyme symptoms. It could literally save someone’s life! Sign me … Glad to be diagnosed from the central coast of California

A: Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in North America. It is caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacterium is spread by deer ticks that feed on the blood of humans, mice, deer, birds, cats and dogs. They are brown and approximately the size of the head of a pin, making them very difficult to spot.

Symptoms vary from person to person, with various areas of the body affected. Common signs may include a rash or bull’s-eye ring in one location or over the body, joint pain, headache, body aches, fever and chills. Less common symptoms are neurological in nature — such as Bell’s palsy, weakness of the limbs, irregular heartbeat, impaired memory, hepatitis and overwhelming fatigue. These are typically associated with advanced disease.

If your physician has any question at all, he or she might choose to order lab testing such as an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test, a Western blot to detect antibodies to several proteins of B. burgdorferi, or a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) that detects bacterial DNA through fluid drawn from an infected joint or spinal fluid.

It is important for both physician and patient to realize that testing may not indicate Lyme disease. And, once an individual has been diagnosed, a portion of the report known as the IgG may remain positive for months or years after the initial infection. This doesn’t require treatment, but remains an indication that the patient had Lyme at one stage.

For the complete article:

~ by Rob on July 30, 2011.

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