Lyme disease affects hundreds of thousands of Americans annually. It can be debilitating for some, especially those misdiagnosed or received a faulty test result. Testing for Lyme disease should be a trusted, streamlined process, but mistakes and false negatives happen more often than they should.
What is the Testing Process for Lyme Disease?
When your doctor orders a Lyme disease test, they typically send you to a lab where a technician will draw blood and send it off for processing.
Your blood is tested using the ELISA, approved by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. If test results are inconclusive or positive, your blood is tested using the Western Blot.
Both tests measure the antibodies in your blood that form when infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease.
The Problem with Current Tests
Studies on the ELISA and Western Blot found these tests are inaccurate just as often or more accurate. The Elisa is only 50% accurate, and the Western Blot, when testing at the very best labs, is 80% accurate. It’s great that the second test is more accurate, but disappointing that most people’s blood does not make it to the second test due to errors with the ELISA.
Other reports state that the test is only accurate between 29% and 40% in the first three weeks after infection. The test becomes more accurate as Lyme disease spreads through your body and becomes more chronic. When it spreads to your neurological system, it becomes 87% accurate. If you develop Lyme arthritis, it becomes 97% accurate.
You may be wondering what makes the tests inaccurate. One reason is that antibodies of Lyme bacteria must be active when the test is performed. When they are dormant, the tests will not find them. The tests will show a negative result, but that doesn’t mean you are negative for Lyme disease. It could simply mean the antibodies are not active at the time of the test.
Lyme bacteria are also very good at hiding in the lining of cells and tissues. When in hiding, they are not detectable. This is another cause of inaccurate test results and misdiagnoses.
The Western Blot has various bands that show up if Lyme disease is present. At least five bands must test positive. If only four bands show up, doctors will count your test as negative without looking into the specific bands typically associated with Lyme bacteria.
Consequences of Inaccurate Testing
If you receive a negative result but have Lyme disease, your symptoms will persist and worsen. Flu-like symptoms, headaches, depression, anxiety, nerve problems, stiffness in your joints and neck, and fatigue will begin to interfere with daily functioning.
You may find yourself canceling plans or avoiding normally fun activities due to your pain. You may find yourself resting alone at home, wondering why this is happening to you. Or you may start using medication to ease the pain.
You may feel like there is no hope for improvement. But there is!
There are more ways to test for Lyme disease to get the correct diagnosis and treatment. The only requirement for the test is that you work with a Lyme-literate physician.
Doctors choose specialty areas to complete their medical degrees, like gynecology or psychiatry. Some choose infectious diseases, which is the specialty area that deals with Lyme disease. A Lyme-literate doctor has education and experience in treating infectious diseases.
The Lyme-literate doctor you want to find is a leader in the industry of Lyme disease. They conduct research, present at conferences, and successfully treat patients.
Lyme-literate doctors can also look at the specific bands on the Western Blot test that indicate Lyme disease. These specific bands are numbers 23, 31, 34, 39, and 93.
In addition, they use alternative methods for testing your blood for Lyme disease.
Alternative Testing for Lyme Disease
Lyme-literate doctors have cutting-edge equipment to implement the latest processes for testing and treating Lyme disease. Below are a few examples of new treatments to benefit you:
- Live Blood Analysis can be used to test for co-infections that are commonly associated with Lyme disease. It can also provide helpful information to your doctor, like the presence of bacteria.
- Cerebral Spinal Fluid Extraction examines the fluid around your spinal cord and brain. The chemical sample is tested for proteins and glucose related to Lyme bacteria and other co-infections.
- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Assays takes fluid from a potentially infected joint and tests it for Lyme bacteria DNA. This test can detect disease in the early stages.
- C-6 Peptide tests can distinguish between false positives and an actual infection because they are more sensitive to Lyme bacteria.
A Lyme-literate doctor will also listen to you and use the symptoms you describe as a guideline for diagnosis. Not all general practitioners consider your symptoms for Lyme disease. Instead, they often start prescribing medications to treat each symptom separately. Before you know it, you are on multiple medications and still have symptoms.
There are many commonalities with Lyme disease, and experienced doctors can identify the source. Then, they can start implementing advanced treatments to get rid of the Lyme bacteria in your system.
Treatments for Lyme Disease
Antibiotics are used as the first line of treatment. However, Lyme-literate doctors administer them through an infusion directly into your bloodstream to attack the bacteria directly. Other advanced treatments include hyperthermia, apheresis, biofilm eradication, antioxidant therapy, and protocols to fight oxidative stress.
Because you can contract Lyme disease more than once, your treatment must include learning more about Lyme prevention methods. If you spend time outdoors, cover as many body parts as you can and spray yourself with repellant. Avoid areas with high, brushy grass. When you come in from outside, do tick checks on yourself and your pets. Take a shower and wash your clothes.
To learn more about testing, treatments, or prevention, contact us today. Our Lyme-literate physicians are eager to work with you.