Lyme Disease is called the “Great Imitator” for its ability to mimic symptoms of over 150 other diseases. Without the appearance of a “bulls-eye” rash, diagnosing Lyme Disease can be extremely challenging and many people are often misdiagnosed with other diseases. A Lyme Disease diagnosis should be based on clinical symptoms, physical findings and exposure to infected ticks. A negative blood test result DOES NOT mean you do not have Lyme Disease.
You can assist your doctor in making a correct diagnosis by keeping a record of all you physical and psychological symptoms.
Before visiting your doctor…
- Send the tick for testing
If you remove a deer tick from yourself, your family or pet, you may want to have it tested. There are several labs available that will test a tick for Lyme Disease. Important: If symptoms of infection begin, seek medical attention immediately. DO NOT wait for test results.
- Take photos of the rash
The typical rash associated with Lyme Disease is the “bulls-eye” rash. However, the rash is seen in fewer than 50% of diagnosed cases. It may also present in other forms, such as a round or oval reddish rash. If the “bulls-eye” rash is present, it is a definitive diagnosis of Lyme Disease and treatment should begin immediately. It is important to take photos of the rash area so you can show them to your doctor in case the rash disappears before your appointment.
- Make note of your symptoms
There are certain symptoms that are characteristic of Lyme disease. Be sure to inform your doctor if you’ve experienced the following: strange rashes, flu-like symptoms, sore or stiff joints/bones, muscle aches, extreme fatigue or headache.
- Try to remember when and how you were infected
If you’ve spent time outdoors hunting, camping, hiking, gardening, etc., you are at risk of contracting Lyme Disease. Knowing when you may have been exposed to Lyme Disease will help your doctor diagnose and treat the infection.
- Keep a timeline of your symptoms
Keeping a record of your symptoms can help your doctor to assess your condition and eliminate other potential illnesses. LymeDisease.org has an interactive symptom checklist to help document common Lyme Disease symptoms for your doctor
- Use the right lab for blood testing
To date, there is no test available that can positively rule out Lyme Disease. However, the following is a list of labs that specialize in the testing of tick-borne infections. These labs are licensed and monitored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMM), part of the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Ammendments (CLIA). Several labs have also received accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) whose goal is to improve patient safety by ensuring laboratories meet or exceed regulatory requirements.
- Advanced Laboratory Services (CLIA #39D1102884)
- Clongen Laboratories (CLIA #21D1032144)
- Fry Laboratories (CLIA #03D1026968)
- Galaxy Diagnostics (CLIA #34D2027997)
- IGeneX (CLIA #05D0643914)
- Imugen (CLIA #22D0650196; CAP Accredited)
- Immunosciences Lab (CLIA #05D0642471; CAP Accredited)
- LabCorp (CLIA #34D0655205)
- Medical Diagnostics Laboratories (CLIA #31D0938156; CAP Accredited)
- Stony Brook School of Medicine (CLIA #33D0654233)