The most obvious sign that you need to get tested for Lyme Disease is if you find a deer tick embedded in your skin. This sounds gross but may be a best-case scenario for some.
Around the area of the tick bite, a red rash can appear. This is another sure sign you need to seek help from your doctor.
Not everyone is this lucky, however. Some people don’t notice signs and symptoms until years later.
The symptoms can be tricky and can mimic other ailments. Flu-like symptoms are associated with Lyme Disease but you or your doctor may just think you have the flu. Some people experience headaches, fatigue, and aching joints and muscles.
All these symptoms can be associated with a myriad of illnesses, from depression to cellulitis to rheumatoid arthritis. Lyme disease has even been referred to as the “great imitator” by some researchers.
Other symptoms of Lyme disease can include a cough, chest pains, hair loss, inflammation anywhere in the body, swollen glands, swelling around the eyes, and unexplained weight loss or gain.
You may also experience digestive issues, facial twitching or palsy, stiffness in the neck and joints, insomnia, jaw pain, personality and mood changes, loss of libido, and poor balance are a few more examples of possible symptoms.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or any other unusual ailments, it is time to get tested for Lyme disease.
What Should You Do Before You Get Tested?
There are actions you can take to help your doctor in their evaluation. If you have access to the tick, take it with you to your appointment.
If the tick is still embedded, carefully remove the tick with tweezers and store it in a zip-lock bag until it is time to show it to your doctor. If you don’t have access to the tick, take a picture of the infected area or rash if they appear.
If you don’t have these symptoms, make sure you document in a daily journal enough information to help your doctor make a diagnosis. Note days and times you may have been exposed to ticks. Track your symptoms and provide descriptions of the body parts are being affected, time length of your symptoms, and anything else you feel is important for your doctor to know.
Where to Go to Be Tested for Lyme?
You can go to your family doctor for Lyme disease testing. However, not all family doctors are specialists in diagnosing and treating this disorder. They will likely take a blood sample, send it off for testing, then read your results during a follow-up visit. Many leave the follow-up to their nurses.
Lyme disease is a life-altering, serious disease. You need a doctor who will treat it as such and treat you with the care and compassion you need if you test positive for Lyme disease.
Because Lyme diseases is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases, it is important you choose a Lyme Literate doctor. This is someone who specializes in tick-born illnesses, who knows the entire list of signs and symptoms, and when these symptoms appear during the stages of developing Lyme disease.
You can also contact a Rheumatologist who specializes in joint weakness and pain, one of the most common symptoms of Lyme disease.
Research Lyme Disease Foundations, Clubs and Associations that share lists of qualified doctors. Do a lot of research and ask friends or family members for recommendations. Don’t be afraid to interview your doctor or their staff about qualifications, training and other background information related to treating this disorder.
What is the Testing Process?
Many family doctors will send you to a laboratory where blood will be drawn and sent for testing.
Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) is a blood test used to detect the antibodies associated with the bacteria of Lyme disease. While this test is used the most, it can also give false results. The right doctors will use more than one type of test to ensure a correct diagnosis.
Another blood test used to confirm Lyme disease is the Western Blot Test, usually used when the ELISA comes back positive.
Testing can also be done on cerebrospinal fluids, but most family practitioners do not order this test for patients.
A specialist, however, will make sure your cerebrospinal fluids are tested, especially if you are having stiffness in the neck or numbness in your hands and feet. This procedure is typically called a spinal type.
Neither test is harmful or dangerous.
What Happens If You Test Positive for Lyme Disease?
Most people who test positive for Lyme disease have a moment of relief. Some have had negative symptoms for a long time but have been misdiagnosed or not taken seriously.
The relief doesn’t last long, however, because they must quickly work with their doctor to create a treatment plan, which can include oral or intravenous antibiotics, diet changes, lifestyle changes and more.
Some benefit most from procedures like apheresis or cleaning the blood. This treatment method is extremely beneficial but should only be done by an expert physician.
Along with apheresis, the doctor can provide additional treatments to aid in your recovery. Treatments can include IV vitamin therapies, pain management, supplements and adrenal and immune enhancement.
What Happens If You Do Not Get Tested for Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease does not go away on its own. In fact, it can spread to other parts of your body like your joints, nervous system and heart.
If left untreated, it’s possible the infection will make your symptoms worse. It may even cause autoimmune issues. Meaning, your own immune system will start working against you, making it difficult to fight off illnesses and diseases.
In conclusion, getting tested is a must. Getting tested by a specialist who uses multiple, effective testing methods is an even greater must.
Hopefully your results will come back negative for Lyme disease. But if not, working with a specialist can ensure you receive the right treatment.