Curious about why your doctor is testing you for Lyme Disease?

One of the tests common to many neurological evaluations is a test for Lyme Disease. Surprisingly for many, some of the symptoms of Lyme Disease are primarily neurological in nature.  You may be coming in for a particular symptom, and Lyme is one of the possible diagnoses that can be checked and often ruled out through a series of blood tests.  We asked Deborah Osgood PA-C, one of Noran Clinic’s Allied Health Professionals, for more information on this disease and why it is a common test.

Blacklegged Tick (aka Deer Tick) size comparison, from the CDC website

Blacklegged Tick (aka Deer Tick) size comparison, from the CDC website

Lyme’s disease is a tick-borne bacterial disease, so in other words, a bacteria that gets into our body through the bite of an infected tick, such as a deer tick found in Minnesota and Wisconsin (not the common wood tick). The tick has to be infected itself first before it can give it to you! And not all ticks are infected with Lyme’s disease.

Neurologists may test a person’s blood for Lyme’s disease if they have symptoms of numbness, tingling, extremity pain, weakness, paralysis of one side of the face (Bell’s palsy), visual disturbances, or meningitis symptoms such as fever, stiff neck and severe headache. A positive initial screening test does not automatically mean you have Lyme’s disease. Further blood testing is sometimes needed, called a Western Blot. Also, having a positive Lyme’s test may not necessarily be what is causing your current symptoms since there are other conditions that can cause the above symptoms.  So it is important to discuss with your health care provider. However, if your health care provider feels you have Lyme’s disease, since it is a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics.  If not treated in its initial stages,  symptoms such as numbness and tingling or burning in the arms and legs, or decreased concentration, irritability, memory and sleep disorders can occur months or years later after the tick bite. So, in the case of Lyme’s disease, as with so many other things, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that is why it is recommended to wear protective clothing and/or tick repellant during tick season.

– Deborah Osgood PA-C

Deborah Osgood MPAS, PA-C

Deborah Osgood MPAS, PA-C

For more information on Lyme disease, visit the National institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke page at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/lyme/lyme.htm.  You can also find resources at the American Lyme Disease Foundation website at http://www.aldf.com/about.shtml.

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