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Types Of Lyme Disease Tests

 

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacterium transmitted by the bite of certain ticks. Symptoms might appear on the bite site or elsewhere on the skin, and they can spread to other regions of the body. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial family known as Borrelia.

 

Lyme disease tests: what are they good for?

Lyme disease testing is performed to see if you've generated antibodies as a result of previous exposure to the Lyme disease-causing Borrelia bacteria. Antibodies are immune system proteins that target specific dangers, such as bacteria and viruses.

Lyme disease cannot be diagnosed only by blood tests. Instead, testing can provide useful information that your doctor can use in conjunction with other variables to confirm a Lyme disease diagnosis, for example, symptoms that you've experienced and whether you've been exposed to ticks that can transmit Borrelia.

In addition to blood tests, a fluid sample from the central nervous system can be analyzed for the presence of the Borrelia bacterium.

 

Who needs to be tested?

If a person shows symptoms of Lyme disease and has been exposed to ticks that transmit the Borrelia bacteria, testing is usually recommended. However, because antibodies take time to form, the timing of testing is critical to consider.

The severity of the bacterial infection determines the symptoms of Lyme disease. The infection is divided into three stages:

Early localized: Symptoms are usually only detected near the tick bite during this stage. A visible rash develops within a few weeks of being bitten, known as erythema migrans.

Early disseminated: During this stage, the germs spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, causing symptoms such as fever, headaches, and pain. Bacteria can harm the heart and neurological system in some situations.

Late disease: This stage happens after the tick bite has occurred and typically includes symptoms affecting the joints or nervous system.

 

Things to know before testing for Lyme disease

It's critical to comprehend these stages because testing isn't equally valuable at each stage. Blood testing is often ineffective in the early stages of localized illness and erythema migrans because antibodies have not had enough time to form.

Testing can help detect whether someone has had a previous Borrelia infection if they display symptoms of early disseminated or late disease. However, blood tests alone are insufficient to identify Lyme disease. It is one aspect to examine, along with symptoms and the possibility of tick exposure.

Some Lyme disease symptoms, such as joint discomfort, might be caused by various other health issues. Therefore, if you simply have these nonspecific symptoms and no other signs of Borrelia infection, testing is not indicated. A positive test in these situations can be deceiving because antibodies may be the product of a previous infection rather than an active illness causing your current symptoms.

Random Lyme disease screening in people without symptoms is not suggested, even in places where ticks that carry the Borrelia bacterium are known to exist, because of similar concerns about false-positive results.

When a person develops neurological symptoms that are consistent with Lyme disease and shows positive or inconclusive blood tests, cerebrospinal fluid testing is usually recommended.

 

Obtaining test outcomes

Your doctor will most likely give you test results for a blood test or lumbar puncture. Your doctor may contact you to inform about the results or schedule a follow-up appointment. You may also receive your results via an online health portal or via mail.

Results for at-home blood tests sent to a lab are usually available within a few business days of receiving your sample. The results are frequently delivered via a smartphone application or a website.

Lyme disease tests are generally accurate in diagnosing whether someone has been exposed to Borrelia, although they are not perfect, just like any other diagnostic test. There are a number of factors that can influence test accuracy and interpretation.

Cross-reactivity: Antibodies to other microorganisms can be identified during tests for antibodies to Borrelia. This is referred to as a false-positive result because the test detects a Borrelia infection when none has occurred. Patients who have previously had Lyme disease or who have gotten a Lyme disease vaccine may also get a false-positive result.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed guidelines for interpreting antibody test findings. According to studies, laboratories that adhere to these rules generate more consistent and reliable results than those that use non-standard criteria.

Because of the time it takes for different antibodies to form and be detected in the blood, the timing of the test is crucial to consider.

When interpreting your test results, the laboratory technician and doctor might consider these points. Overall, testing is usually accurate in determining bacteria exposure, but it's crucial to understand that this is not the same as a confirmed Lyme disease diagnosis.

 

Lyme disease tests: what are they, what are their types, and how do they work?

Lyme disease antibody titer testing assesses antibodies specific to the microorganisms that can cause the disease. Antibodies are a component of the immune system's response. Immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies are the two types of antibodies that are looked for in tests.

IgM antibodies normally peak a few weeks after a Borrelia bacterium infection and then begin to decline 4-6 months later. IgG antibodies take longer to develop, appearing 4-6 weeks after exposure and peaking 4-6 months later. While IgM is usually associated with an ongoing infection, both IgM and IgG can last for years in the blood.

For these antibodies, the CDC recommends a two-stage or two-tiered test. If the first blood test for IgM or IgG antibodies linked to Borrelia bacteria is positive, a second test is performed, often using alternative laboratory procedures.

Testing for IgM and IgG antibodies can help confirm that you've been exposed to Borrelia, but it doesn't indicate that you have Lyme disease.

In addition to blood tests, a fluid from the central nervous system can be analyzed for the presence of the Borrelia bacterium. This is also known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) testing. CSF testing for Lyme disease is complicated, and it cannot always rule out a prior or present Borrelia infection of the central nervous system. There are, however, a number of CSF abnormalities that can be used by a clinician to confirm the presence of a Lyme infection of the central nervous system when paired with a patient's history and physical exam. Blood testing is the main method for diagnosing Lyme disease outside of the central nervous system.

If the results of the initial testing are inconclusive, more testing may be required. This may require recurrent blood tests or the use of various medical procedures to rule out other health issues. Imaging tests may be used to detect joint inflammation in people who are suspected of bacterial reinfection.

You can order a health test online that you can take at home.

This is a simple, cost-effective, and private approach to rapidly obtaining accurate test results. Select the appropriate test for you.

When there are indications or symptoms that are consistent with Lyme disease, a doctor would usually prescribe Lyme disease tests.

In a doctor's office or other medical setting, a blood sample can be obtained. If a CSF test is required, a lumbar puncture and an outpatient operation can be performed in a hospital. After that, the samples are tested in a licensed laboratory.

 

Self-assessment

At-home testing of antibodies associated with Lyme disease is possible. In general, these test kits require you to prick your fingertip to get a blood sample. After that, the blood sample is sent to a laboratory to be tested for IgM and IgG antibodies.

Blood testing is the main type for diagnosing Lyme disease, which is evaluated using enzyme immunoassay, immunofluorescence assay, or the western blot method. CSF testing may be advantageous when indicated.

Some laboratories have offered unverified Lyme disease tests, according to the CDC. These tests haven't been validated and haven't been shown to help in diagnosis. The following are some examples of potentially flawed tests:

  • PCR tests are performed on blood or urine samples.
  • Antigen testing in the urine
  • Tests on lymphocyte transformation
  • CD57 lymphocyte assays and IgG or IgM analysis other than by enzyme immunoassay, immunofluorescence assay, or the western blot technique
  • Borrelia bacteria culture, immunofluorescence labeling, or cell sorting

 

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18452688/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26593258/

 

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