What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an illness that’s caused by bacteria carried by infected ticks. If you’ve been bitten by a tick and show any of the early symptoms of Lyme disease, you should see your doctor. Lyme disease is treatable, but it can cause serious health problems if you wait too long get treatment. Many people with Lyme disease don’t know they have it until their symptoms are advanced. Knowing the signs and symptoms will help you get treatment as early as possible.
Why is Lyme disease so hard to diagnose?
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose for a number of reasons. First, people don’t always know that a tick has bitten them. They may not seek medical treatment until they develop symptoms. What’s more, many symptoms of Lyme disease mimic signs of other illnesses, including the flu. Also, the ticks that spread Lyme disease can be small and difficult to spot, even when they’re engorged, or full with your blood.
Next, the blood tests used to diagnose Lyme disease may not always detect a positive case. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a two-step process for testing blood. The tests look for antibodies that form when the body is trying to fight off Lyme disease. The first step is to perform an EIA, or enzyme immunoassay. If this test is positive or indeterminate, doctors will run a second test, called a Western blot, on the blood sample. A person is diagnosed with Lyme disease only if the EIA and Western blot test are both positive.