According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 476,000 people in the United States are affected by Lyme disease each year.
But if you haven't taken a Lyme disease blood test, you might be unknowingly harboring the illness. After all, the bacteria associated with Lyme disease can lie dormant for months or years.
But how accurate are Lyme disease blood tests, and how often should you have one done? Let's find out!
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that's spread via woodland ticks. It's often very mild, though moderate or intense symptoms can develop over time.
This illness gets its name from its discovery location, Lyme, Connecticut. It is most prevalent in areas with expansive woodlands. As you might imagine, the more forests you have, the more ticks you're bound to encounter.
Though Lyme disease isn't considered one of the most lethal illnesses, it can prove dangerous for those with compromised immune systems. Additionally, untreated Lyme disease can result in symptoms that last for months.
After spending time in the great outdoors, it's vital to check for ticks and tick bites. You may also want to spray yourself with pest repellent before going for a hike or going camping.
Risk Factors for Lyme Disease
People with Lyme disease might enjoy spending time outdoors more than those who never contract it. They are more likely to come into contact with the woodland ticks that harbor Lyme disease-bearing bacteria.
As such, the most common risk factors for Lyme disease include:
- Camping in wooded areas
- Hiking through wooded areas
- Spending time outdoors near tick habitats
- Owning animals that often go outdoors
It's doubtful that someone who spends their life in a large urban area would ever contract Lyme disease. However, for those living closer to the countryside, it's a near-daily risk.
You might also accidentally bring ticks into your home if you own pets that often play outdoors. Because of this, researchers often use canine maps to help track the prevalence of Lyme disease.
Causes of Lyme Disease
Protecting yourself from Lyme disease can be challenging if you live in wooded areas throughout the Northeastern or Central United States. This particular strain of bacteria is called Borrelia burgdorferi. Bacteria that cause Lyme disease are found on insects and ticks.
When a black-legged (Deer) tick bites a person, there's a chance that the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, will pass into the person's bloodstream. When this happens, antibodies rush to stop the spread.
Though Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection, it is not often grouped with infectious diseases. That's because there are no recorded cases of human-to-human transmission.
In the United States, ticks are the primary cause of Lyme disease. Protecting yourself from this illness means consistent pest control services around your home and constant vigilance while walking or hiking through wooded areas.
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
There are quite a few physical signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. But, perhaps the most notable sign is a circular red rash that spreads out from a tick bite.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70-80% of people bitten by an infected tick get this rash. But this rash does go away with time.
Consequently, some infected individuals may believe that they're perfectly healthy after being infected with harmful bacteria. Even worse, this bacteria can remain dormant for several weeks, months, or even years.
Still, that doesn't mean that Lyme disease is without symptoms. When the bacteria begins to spread throughout the body, it may cause:
- Neck Stiffness
- Joint Pain
If you've noticed any of these symptoms, or an unexplainable rash that keeps appearing, you may want to have yourself tested for Lyme disease. Often, the recommended treatment is a short course of antibiotics.
That's a small price to pay for staying safe from long-term aches, pains, and swelling. Remember, the sooner you get tested, the sooner you can enjoy a healthier body and mind.
How Do You Treat Lyme Disease?
When a case of Lyme disease is confirmed, the standard course of action is two to four weeks of oral antibiotics. In extreme cases, hospitalization may be recommended. Still, most will recover quickly while taking antibiotics.
Remember, a diagnosis of Lyme disease doesn't mean death. Though the long-term effects of this illness can be mildly debilitating, reversing those effects starts with rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Lab Tests for Lyme Disease
There are quite a few different lab tests that physicians can use to test for Lyme disease. Most are blood-based tests. A person's spinal or synovial (joint) fluid can also be used for testing.
Still, the most comfortable form of testing is often blood testing. If you're concerned that you may have contracted Lyme disease over the past weeks, months, or years, you can order a Lyme disease blood test online.
With several tests available, it might seem challenging to pick the right one. However, any Lyme disease blood test that checks for specific antibodies related to Lyme disease can be effective.
If your test is positive, you'll want to share those results with your primary care provider. Then, they can recommend antibiotics to help fight off infection and kill the invading bacteria.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Lyme disease and Lyme disease blood tests. If you continue to have questions about this illness, please reach out to your health care provider.
Can Lyme Disease Be Detected by a Blood Test?
A blood test can detect Lyme disease. However, spinal fluid tests are also an option. Still, blood tests are often the preferred testing method.
That's because spinal fluid tests often involve removing fluids from the spine or joints. This process can be painful or uncomfortable for patients. Blood tests tend to be far simpler and are virtually pain-free.
Blood analysts can use a blood sample to test for Lyme disease by searching for specific antibodies created to fight the bacterial infection. Though there are many types of antibodies, two are crucial to Lyme disease blood tests.
The first set is called Immunoglobulin G, or IgG antibodies. These are the most prevalent type of antibodies found throughout the body. They're present during bacterial and viral infections.
The second major type of bloodborne antibody is IgM antibodies. Your body creates and releases these antibodies immediately after infection. Analysts can look for these biomarkers to determine infection level and duration.
What Is a Western Blot Test?
The Western Blot Test is a type of blood test that focuses on antibodies. It's very similar to other blood tests in terms of patient procedure. You arrive for your blood drawing appointment and wait for your results.
The thing that makes the Western Blot Test somewhat unique is its processing. Analysts separate the proteins and add them to blotter paper to study the antibodies in any given blood sample. They then add special enzymes and observe changes in the paper's color. Certain colors indicate the presence of specific antibodies, helping analysts determine a sample's status.
What Is the Most Accurate Test for Lyme Disease?
The most accurate test for Lyme disease is either a full-panel Lyme disease blood test or a spinal fluid test. Both offer high levels of accuracy.
Repeat testing may also be an excellent way to determine the presence of Lyme disease. After all, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can remain dormant in a person's tissues for several months or years.
Consequently, blood testing may be preferable to spinal fluid testing. In addition, it's far easier to perform repeat blood tests than it is to have spinal fluid removed regularly.
It's also worthwhile to note that a person's blood is also rich in antibodies. So when performing a Lyme disease blood test, lab technicians look for the presence of specific antibodies that may indicate Lyme disease.
How Long Does It Take for a Lyme Blood Test To Come Back?
It takes about one to four business days for a lab to process Lyme disease blood test results. That said, complex tests that also test for the presence of other bacteria may require more time to process.
Ulta Lab Tests provides a fast turnaround time on lab results processed by Quest and secure online results. That way, you're not waiting several weeks to learn the outcome of your blood tests.
How Long Can You Have Lyme Disease Without Knowing?
A person can carry the bacteria for Lyme disease for several years before symptoms of the disease start exhibiting. But some people, particularly those with compromised immunity, may notice symptoms more quickly.
Still, the maximum amount of time a person can go without exhibiting Lyme disease symptoms is about 36 months or three years. Most will experience early symptoms far sooner.
Benefits of Lyme Disease Lab Testing With Ulta Lab Tests
Lyme disease can be a slow-progressing illness that causes mild to moderate pain. It can be particularly dangerous for individuals with compromised immune systems. As such, it's vital to get tested for Lyme disease.
Ulta Lab Tests provides some of the most diverse and high-quality medical tests in the United States. When you choose to order tests with Ulta Lab Tests, you know you can look forward to several benefits, including:
- Secure and Confidential Results
- No Insurance or Referral Needed
- Affordable Pricing
- 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
With Ulta Lab Tests, you just purchase your desired test directly and visit your local patient service center.
From there, it's only a short matter of waiting for your confidential results. Most results are available within a few business days, though some tests might take a little more time.
In addition, Ulta Lab Tests offers a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and can help you select the right test for your needs.
But it's crucial to note that Ulta Lab Tests are currently unavailable in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. As such, residents of those states may need to schedule a visit with their regular physician for testing.
Order a Lyme Disease Blood Test Today
Lyme disease blood tests can help you avoid months or years of joint and nerve pain. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are often spread via tick bites. Avoiding these bites can be challenging, especially in wooded areas.
Order your Lyme disease lab test today, and your results will be provided to you confidentially online in two to four days, and one to two days for most other tests. Take charge of your health and track your progress with Ulta Lab Tests!