Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease

Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease

Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Lyme disease, being a condition that mimics other common symptoms, can sometimes be difficult to diagnose if there is no specific rash formed around the site of the tick bite.

Another issue is that Lyme disease can also spread other diseases at the same time.

If you do not have the rash, but your doctor suspects that you have been bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease, he/she may ask you a series of questions about your medical history and do a physical exam. Then, your doctor may order the following tests in order to identify antibodies to the bacteria to help in confirming the diagnosis. These tests tend to be the most reliable a few weeks after the tick bite has taken place – giving your body time to produce the antibodies. The tests conducted can include:

  • An enzyme immunoassay, also known as an EIA or ELISA test, is used to discover antibodies fighting against the bacteria Borrelia burgdorfei.
  • A Western blot test can be conducted if the EIA test is positive to confirm results as there are a lot of cases of false positives with EIA tests. This test will detect antibodies to a variety of proteins of Borrelia burgdorfei.
  • A polymerase chain reaction, known as a PCR, is used in order to examine people with a persistent case of Lyme arthritis (a development of Lyme disease that is uncommon). This test is conducted on spinal or joint fluid.

How is Lyme disease treated?

Due to Lyme disease being a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics.

Kinds of antibiotics may include:

  • Oral antibiotics which are known as a standard treatment for the early stages of Lyme disease. These are normally cefuroxime or amoxicillin for young children and breastfeeding or pregnant women or doxycycline for adults and children who are older than eight
  • Antibiotics can also be taken intravenously, which means they are injected with a needle or a drip into the vein. This is only needed when the disease has progressed to affect the nervous system. However, these types of antibiotics have side effects which should be taken into consideration. Speak to your doctor about the best options for you.

It is also possible to still experience symptoms, even after treatment. This is known as post-treatment Lyme disease, the exact cause of this is unknown. Some symptoms that may continue are often muscle aches and fatigue. Some doctors believe people who are prone to autoimmune diseases may have persistent symptoms. Some people may feel a bit worse and develop a fever immediately after starting the antibiotics but these symptoms usually resolve in about two days.