Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted from a deer tick to a human after it embeds itself under your skin, searching for your bloodstream. Ticks feed on warm blood. Once it reaches your bloodstream, the tick transmits the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which flows to various body parts. But the real question is, what is a Lyme disease test and how do you get one? The longer the Lyme bacteria remains in your system, the more they will multiply and spread throughout the body. Being tested for Lyme disease should be done as soon as possible to avoid the chronic effects of Lyme disease.
When to Get a Lyme Disease Test
If you find a tick on your body, remove it and store it in an airtight container. Finding a tick does not mean you will get Lyme disease. It doesn’t even tell the tick has bitten you yet. Deer ticks are known to travel for a couple of days before finding the perfect spot to try and embed themselves.
If you develop Lyme disease symptoms, however, you can take the tick with you to your doctor for examination and testing of Lyme disease. If you find a tick embedded in your skin, remove it with a tool like tweezers that can secure the tick while pulling it out. Make sure you get the whole tick, including the head, when removing it. If the head is not removed, it will simply become dead matter. However, it may still contain bacteria.
If you find an embedded tick, your doctor may want to test you for Lyme disease even if you haven’t experienced symptoms representative of the disease. Not everyone finds a tick on their body. Therefore, knowing the symptoms to look for can help you receive an early diagnosis.
Signs You Need a Lyme Disease Test
If a tick bites you, a bullseye rash may appear at the bite site or anywhere else on the body, even in parts that aren’t seen too often. If you develop a rash, seek your doctor’s opinion on whether it is due to Lyme bacteria. If you are feeling ill, don’t wait until a bullseye rash appears.
Only about 70% of people bitten by a tick will get a rash known as erythema migrans. The ones who do not get a rash must pay attention to other early Lyme symptoms to know when to request a Lyme disease test. If you have any of the following, talk to your doctor about the possibility of Lyme disease:
- Flu-like symptoms, including chills, fever, headaches, body aches, etc.
- Fatigue when you should have energy
- Neck stiffness
- Pain in the joints or muscles
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sudden swelling in the knee or other joints
Testing for Lyme Disease Antibodies
Most general practitioners follow the Center for Disease Control’s two-step protocol to test for Lyme disease. Some doctors will test you immediately, and some will wait a few weeks to ensure your body has time to develop antibodies to Lyme bacteria. If antibodies are not detected, your test will be negative. An extremely high percentage of people tested for Lyme disease receive a false negative result.
This result happens for several reasons. Lyme bacteria can go dormant or inactive, evading detection. They can also hide inside the lining and walls of tissues and cells, receiving protection from detection. They can even protect themselves by building biofilms that act as shields. If you receive a negative result but have symptoms, getting a second opinion from a Lyme-literate doctor specializing in infectious diseases is crucial.
What Is the Testing Protocol?
The first test utilizes the ELISA Test or the Lyme C6 Peptide ELISA. You are then tested using the Western Blot test if you receive a positive result. The second test checks your blood to see if Lyme bacteria proteins are present and are used to confirm the results of the ELISA. Both tests are completed in a clinical laboratory where blood is drawn and analyzed by healthcare professionals. The entire testing process takes less than ten minutes.
Additional Tests for Lyme Disease
If you receive a negative result from the ELISA or Western Blot, your general practitioner may not agree to further testing. Some may not even retest your blood later to see if antibodies are present, even if your symptoms worsen. If this happens to you, seek a Lyme-literate doctor immediately. They use advanced methods and equipment. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the process of testing joint or cerebrospinal fluid.
Some doctors call it a lumbar puncture, and others refer to the process as a spinal tap. During this Lyme disease test, you will lay on your side, and a healthcare professional will apply a numbing cream to the area where your doctor will draw the fluid. Spinal or joint fluid is gathered using a thin, hollow needle inserted between vertebrae in your lower spine. This procedure takes about five to ten minutes.
Lyme-literate doctors have the tools to analyze your blood under a microscope to see if bacteria are present. They also test for co-infections, like Babesiosis, which are transmitted by deer ticks and can produce symptoms like Lyme disease. They then combine all test results with a comprehensive evaluation of your unique symptoms to determine if you have Lyme disease.
Post-Lyme Disease Testing
If your Lyme-literate doctor determines you do not have Lyme disease, they will work with you to choose the exact cause of your symptoms. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease, you will receive an individualized treatment plan to eliminate Lyme bacteria from your system. Your plan may include treatments like:
- IV antibiotics
- Therapeutic apheresis
- Biofilm eradication
- Detox protocols
- Nutrition therapy
You know your body better than anyone else, even your general practitioner. If you have symptoms, but your doctor can’t find a source, don’t give up. Make yourself and your health a priority, and reach out to a specialist today to receive advanced testing for Lyme disease so you can get the answers you deserve.