Getting the Right Diagnosis for Lyme Disease
Throughout England and Wales, the number of incidents of Lyme Disease has increased tenfold since first being reported in the 1980s. Currently, there are an estimated 1,000 new cases of the health condition reported each year, but some suggest that this number may be as high as 3,000. This is because Lyme Disease is not a reportable medical issue, and many individuals who have the disease are not properly or promptly diagnosed. The condition can be debilitating and have a serious impact on the well-being of adults and children, making it necessary to understand what Lyme Disease is, how it is contracted, and how to get the right diagnosis early in its onset.
Understanding the Disease
Anyone can contract Lyme Disease during their lifetime, regardless of age, medical history, or other health conditions they currently have. The disease is tick-borne and infectious, caused by a bite from an infected tick. Humans get Lyme Disease when a tick carrying the disease attaches to their body and remains on the skin for an extended period. Throughout the UK, ticks lurk in grassy and wooded areas, but they can be found in both urban and rural regions of the country. Individuals who spend ample time outdoors without protection are more susceptible to contract Lyme Disease than those who do not.
According to the NHS, Lyme Disease symptoms can vary greatly from individual to individual which makes it difficult to get a proper diagnosis straightaway. However, the most common warning signs of Lyme Disease include:
- A noticeable circular rash around a tick bite
- High, persistent temperature
- Muscle and joint pain
- Loss of energy and exhaustion
While most tick bites are not harmful, ticks that carry the disease can wreak havoc on an individual’s health. Without an accurate diagnosis, Lyme Disease can be a frustrating condition that has no simple cure.
Problems with Diagnosis
One of the issues surrounding the diagnosis of Lyme Disease relates to the fact that the condition is known as the great imitator. According to a group of medical negligence experts, Lyme Disease symptoms often resemble other, more prevalent conditions, including fibromyalgia, depression, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. Because the symptoms are vague, with the exception of the rash around the tick bite, the chance for misdiagnosis is relatively high. The unfortunate reality is that not all individuals who are infected with the disease see a rash immediately after the bite or at all, making a diagnosis that much more difficult.
In addition to the difficulties surrounding symptom identification, Lyme Disease comes with a high rate of misdiagnosis because testing is not always straightforward. Most patients who think they may have Lyme Disease based on no appearance of a rash receive an ELISA test performed in a local hospital. The problem is that the results from this test may take weeks to be processed, and a negative result does not necessarily rule out the condition as present. These tests have serious limitations as far as accuracy and consistency in interpreting results, leaving many without a proper diagnosis shortly after contracting the disease. However, once a proper diagnosis is provided, there are options for treatment that can help ease symptoms and discomfort.
Treatment and Support
In most cases of Lyme Disease, individuals are offered antibiotics to treat the condition. The sooner antibiotics are provided after the tick bite, the better the results will be for the patient. Doctors will either prescribe oral antibiotics for early-stage Lyme Disease patients, or intravenous antibiotics for those who have more serious infections. In either case, it could take several days to a few weeks to feel relief from symptoms, and side effects may be present throughout the process.
For some individuals with Lyme Disease, symptoms persist after antibiotics are provided. Muscle aches and exhaustion may continue, particularly for those who are predisposed to develop autoimmune conditions. There is not yet enough research about the post-treatment issues relating to Lyme Disease to know why this happens, or to whom it will take place. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for chronic symptoms of Lyme Disease, but this is often avoided with early intervention through antibiotics.
Those who have Lyme Disease with ongoing symptoms may find relief through support groups either online or in person. Talking about the pain and persistent symptoms with other patients, advocates, and medical professionals can be beneficial in finding the right at-home treatment to help ease discomfort. Additionally, Lyme Disease organisations offer several resources for learning more about the condition, progress in the medical community regarding vaccines and medication, and local support groups to attend for patients and their loved ones.