Lyme Disease Blood Test, Western Blot
The Lyme Disease Western Blot test is typically used as a confirmatory test for people who have had positive results from previous Lyme Disease testing. This test looks for the presence of both IgG and IgM antigen bands to confirm both recent and previous exposure. The detection of multiple bands is required for a positive result.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
It is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.
If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease.
Only a positive Western Blot test can confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease. A positive ELISA can help confirm the diagnosis, but isn't enough by itself because other infectious diseases and some types of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can give the same results.
What are Lyme Disease symptoms?
The list of possible symptoms is long, and symptoms can affect every part of the body. The following are the most common symptoms of Lyme disease. But symptoms are slightly different for each person.
The primary symptom of lyme disease is a red rash that:
- Can appear several days after infection, or not at all
- Can last up to several weeks
- Can be very small or grow very large (up to 12 inches across), and may resemble a "bulls-eye"
- Can mimic such skin problems as hives, eczema, sunburn, poison ivy, and flea bites
- Can itch or feel hot, or may not be felt at all
- Can disappear and return several weeks later
Several days or weeks after a bite from an infected tick, you may have flu-like symptoms such as the following:
- Stiff neck
- Aches and pains in muscles and joints
- Low-grade fever and chills
- Poor appetite
- Swollen glands
Weeks to months after the bite, the following symptoms may develop:
- Neurological symptoms, including inflammation of the nervous system (meningitis) and weakness and paralysis of the facial muscles (Bell palsy)
- Heart problems, including inflammation of the heart (myopericarditis) and problems with heart rate
- Eye problems, including inflammation (for example, red eye)
Months to a few years after a bite, the following symptoms may include:
- Inflammation of the joints (arthritis)
- Neurological symptoms including numbness in the extremities, tingling and pain, and difficulties with speech, memory, and concentration
Some people may develop post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS). A condition also known as chronic Lyme disease includes PLDS, but also other syndromes. Usually, these are characterized by persistent musculoskeletal and peripheral nerve pain, fatigue, and memory impairment.
Antibiotics can cure most cases of Lyme disease. The sooner treatment begins, the quicker and more complete the recovery.
After treatment, some patients may still have muscle or joint aches and nervous system symptoms. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). Long-term antibiotics have not been shown to help with PTLDS. However, there are ways to help with the symptoms of PTLDS, and most patients do get better with time.
The CDC does not recommend the Western Blot test as a front line screening as some conditions other than Lyme Disease may cause a false positive.
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