Types Of Lyme Disease Tests
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacteria that is 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?
The most frequent sort of Lyme disease testing is used 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 assess whether a Lyme disease diagnosis is appropriate, such as any symptoms you've experienced and whether you've been exposed to ticks that can transmit Borrelia.
In addition to blood tests, fluid from the central nervous system can be analysed for evidence of the Borrelia bacterium.
Who needs to be tested?
If a person exhibits 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 localised: Symptoms are usually only detected near the tick bite during this stage. is known as erythema migrans, and it features a visible rash that appears within a few weeks of being bitten.
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. Blood testing is often ineffective in the early stages of localised illness and erythema migrans because antibodies have not had enough time to form.
Testing can assist 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's 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 a variety of other health issues. As a result, 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 can carry the Borrelia bacterium are known to exist, due to similar concerns about false positive results.
When a person develops neurological symptoms that are consistent with Lyme disease and 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 you of 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 app 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 since the test detects 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 vital to consider.
When interpreting your test results, the laboratory and doctor might take these considerations into account. 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, The Types and How Do They Work?
Lyme disease antibody titer testing assess 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 (IgG).
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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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, fluid from the central nervous system can be analysed for evidence of the Borrelia bacterium. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) testing is another name for this procedure. Lyme disease CSF testing 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 utilised 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 need recurrent blood tests or the use of a variety of medical procedures to rule out other health issues. Imaging tests may be utilised to detect joint inflammation in persons who are suspected of bacterial reinfection.
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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 cerebrospinal fluid test is required, a lumbar puncture, an outpatient operation, can be performed in a hospital. After that, the samples are tested in a licenced laboratory.
At-home testing of antibodies associated to Lyme disease is possible. In general, these test kits need 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.
The main kind of Lyme disease testing is blood samples evaluated using enzyme immunoassay, immunofluorescence assay, or the Western Blot method. Cerebrospinal fluid 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 IgG or IgM analysis other than by enzyme immunoassay, immunofluorescence assay, or the Western Blot technique Borrelia bacteria culture, immunofluorescence labelling, or cell sorting