Medicine

Lyme Disease and the path toward diagnosis

Many people have heard the term Lyme Disease before, but most are unaware of the extent the health condition can impact everyday well-being. Without the right diagnosis, Lyme Disease can wreak havoc on an individuals physical and mental state, and symptoms of the condition may persist far past when treatment takes place. According to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), an estimated 3,000 individuals are diagnosed with Lyme Disease each year in the UK. However, this number may be far higher given the condition is not necessarily reported by all medical offices or providers.

Lyme Disease is a complex condition that can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, medical history, or current health status. For this reason, it is imperative to recognise what Lyme Disease is at its core, why it is so often misdiagnosed, and what can be done once a proper diagnosis is delivered.

Breaking Down Lyme Disease

Throughout the world, Lyme Disease is contracted through a bacterial infection, primarily carried by certain types of ticks. The tick-borne illness may infect anyone who experiences a prolonged tick bite to the skin, but those who spend ample time outdoors, in wooded or grassy areas may be more susceptible to contracting the condition. When an infected tick latches on to the skin, the bacteria enters the body through the bite and makes its way to the bloodstream. In most cases, a tick must be attached to the skin for at least 36 hours before the infection can be transmitted, but there are some cases when less time is needed. Removing the attached tick as soon as it is found is the best course of action to prevent Lyme Disease.

When the medical condition is contracted, individuals may have a wide range of symptoms. Most adults and children see the appearance of a rash radiating from the tick bite that is red and circular in shape. However, not everyone experiences a rash immediately after a bite or at all. For some, symptoms include headaches, fatigue, depression and anxiety, muscle aches and soreness, and a persistent fever. Because the range of symptoms and warning signs is not the same for everyone infected with Lyme Disease, the condition is difficult to diagnosis and ultimately treat.

Problematic Diagnosis

Although the number of cases of Lyme Disease has increased significantly over the last several years, diagnosis is still an issue for those experiencing symptoms. According to a medical negligence law firm, misdiagnosis of Lyme Disease is common for several reasons. The first cause for a missed diagnosis is the fact that Lyme Disease symptoms mimic other, more common conditions. Depression and anxiety, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and food poisoning all have similar early-stage symptoms as Lyme Disease. When there is no rash present in those who have the condition, symptoms are often mistaken for another health condition that requires other treatment options.

Adding to the issue of misdiagnosis because of its imitator designation, Lyme Disease testing is not yet a mastered art form. Instead, the NHS uses a two-step process that involves an evaluation of symptoms and an ELISA test from an individual’s blood. The blood test can take several weeks to process, and it is known to offer negative results when Lyme Disease is actually present. Patients, then, are left with misinformation and a missed diagnosis which reduces their opportunity for timely treatment. The effects of Lyme Disease may continue on for a lifetime when treatment is not provided quickly after the infection is contracted.

 

Treatment Options

It may sound as though those with Lyme Disease are facing an uphill battle in getting back to good health, but there are treatment options available for those who receive a proper diagnosis early on in the process. For most adults, treating Lyme Disease involves the use of antibiotics, either orally or intravenously, to help combat the infection from within. Although antibiotics may take several days to a few weeks to work fully, this is the most effective way to treat the condition and ease symptoms. However, those who do not receive antibiotics because of missed diagnosis may have ongoing issues such as muscle aches, fatigue, and depression or anxiety long after the infection took place. There is no current cure for post-treatment Lyme Disease discomfort, making an early, accurate diagnosis crucial.

When symptoms of Lyme Disease persist after treatment, the most helpful course of action is finding at-home remedies that reduce discomfort and finding a local support group to share the ups and downs of the condition over time. Several organisations offer listings of support groups and events, along with educational resources explaining the condition and what can be done about discomfort. Although these steps may not lead to a full cure for post-treatment Lyme Disease symptoms, knowing one is not alone can be beneficial in overcoming the discomfort of the disease.

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