Lyme Disease Tests

Lyme Disease Tests

Lyme disease is a vector-borne infectious condition in the US, caused by the bacterial organism Borrelia burgdorferi and spread by the black legged tick. Lyme disease walking and running has become more even more common in the US, and it can cause a range of issues such as joint pain, headaches, fever, and even heart problems if untreated. A Lyme disease test will determine whether you are suffering from Lyme disease, and whether it is in its early or late stages.

Preparation for Lyme Disease Tests

Certain preparation steps may be necessary and vary based on the type of test being used:

  • Blood test: a few days before the test, ensure that you are well hydrated, as dehydration can affect the accuracy of the results; stop taking antibiotics at least a week prior to the test; and inform your doctor about the current medications you are taking, such as NSAIDs or Neurologics.
  • Urine test: it is important to drink plenty of liquids before the test, and also to inform your doctor about all the medications you are currently taking.
  • Skin test: you should not take antihistamines for at least a week prior to the skin test.

Procedure for Lyme Disease Tests

This also varies based on the type of test:

  • Blood test: the doctor or a laboratory technician will draw a small tube of blood from a vein in your arm and take it to a laboratory for testing.
  • Urine test: after guiding you to the restroom filled with mid-stream urine, the healthcare worker will take the sample, and the laboratory will test it.
  • Skin test: a healthcare professional will remove an area of your skin and inject it with purified protein from the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. If you are allergic, a red or swollen area will appear, and will be tested for the presence of antibodies.

Types of Lyme Disease Tests

Lyme disease tests commonly consist of blood tests and urine tests. A skin test may also be used, although it is less reliable. All three tests, depending on their results, help doctors provide the proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

The most commonly used blood tests are ELISA and Western blot tests. The ELISA test (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), indicates whether the body is producing antibodies to fight the Lyme bacteria. If this test is positive, the Western blot test is performed to confirm whether the antibodies are truly related to Lyme disease.

The urine test is less commonly used, because it only detects Lyme disease at very specific stages of the illness. If the ELISA and Western blot indicate Lyme disease, the urine test is not necessary.

Risks of Lyme Disease Tests

Lyme disease tests are very safe and pose almost no risks. However, the procedure for drawing blood may cause a brief feeling of dizziness or a slight poking sensation while the needle is inserted.

Why Test for Lyme Disease?

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms associated with Lyme disease, such as a fever, rash, joint pain, fatigue, or headache, it is important to get tested as soon as possible. Testing can also prevent it from becoming a chronic condition and, if you do test positively, provide early treatment.

When to Test for Lyme Disease?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend taking the test two to four weeks after the initial tick bite. It usually takes that long for the body to produce enough antibodies for the ELISA test to detect. However, if you experience any of the associated symptoms even before that, the test can be requested sooner.