Diagnosing Lyme Disease is difficult. Many of the signs and symptoms are found in other conditions as well. In addition, the ticks that transmit Lyme Disease also spread other diseases at the same time.
Lab tests to identify antibodies to the bacteria in tick bites can help to confirm a diagnosis. These tests are most reliable a few weeks after infection. It takes time for your body to develop antibodies.
Lyme Disease requires a clinical diagnosis, including your medical history, symptoms and amount of exposure to ticks. This is necessary because the typical diagnostic tests are so insensitive that a negative test result does not mean that you do not have Lyme Disease.
Why do false-negative results occur? There are three primary reasons:
Consider these findings about the tests:
In addition to helping physicians to diagnose a disease, the tests can help physicians to manage the illness. A good test can help a doctor assess the severity of the disease, estimate the patient’s prognosis, monitor the course of disease progression, stability or resolution, detect relapse, and select drugs or adjust the therapy. Unfortunately, at this time there is no Lyme Disease test with these capabilities.
There are other tests for Lyme Disease that are called “direct tests.” These tests identify the bacteria, not just your immune response to it.
Although the CDC recommends that patients use “FDA-approved” tests, Advanced Laboratory Services does not support this restriction because there are no FDA approved tests for Lyme Disease.
Sometimes diagnosis is achieved only by ruling out other diseases or illnesses.
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