Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread to human by infected ticks. Ticks are small, spider-shaped creatures that feed on the blood of mammals, including humans. IgG and IgM test at the D2 Medical
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a red skin rash that looks similar to a bull’s eye on a dartboard. However, if Lyme disease is left untreated, further symptoms can follow including:
- a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or higher
- muscle pain
- joint pain and swelling
- neurological symptoms, such as temporary paralysis of the facial muscles
A person with Lyme disease cannot spread disease to another through normal social contact.
How common is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is not a common infection. It is estimated that there are between 50 and 100 cases in Ireland each year.
The ticks that cause Lyme disease are commonly found in woodland and heathland areas. This is because these types of habitats have a high number of tick-carrying animals, such as deer, mice and sheep.
Due to their breeding patterns, the tick population is highest in late spring and early summer.
Ticks can also be found in rural areas in many other countries, including Ireland
There is a widely held misconception that the outlook for Lyme disease is poor and that the condition cannot be treated. This is not the case.
If Lyme disease is diagnosed in its early stages, it can be treated with antibiotics, and the outlook for the condition is excellent. Most people will make a full recovery within a couple of days.
Even if more serious symptoms develop, they can usually be cured with antibiotics, although a longer course will be required.
A vaccine for Lyme disease was introduced in 1998, but it has since been withdrawn by the manufacturer due to controversies over alleged side effects.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to take sensible precautions when you are in areas that are known to have a high tick population, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts, and using insect repellent.
Lyme disease can be a difficult condition to diagnose, particularly in its latter stages, because its symptoms are also shared by other, more common conditions, such as infections, or arthritis. While the characteristic skin rash can provide an important clue, not everyone with Lyme disease will develop the rash.
If you do not develop the rash, you will need to have some tests so that your GP can confirm, or rule out, a diagnosis.
ELISA test at D2 Medical
The first test that you will have is a type of blood test that is known as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. The ELISA test is designed to look for specific antibodies that are produced by your immune system to kill the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
The ELISA test is not 100% accurate, and can sometimes produce a positive result even when a person is not infected with Lyme disease (a false-positive result). As a result of this, an ELISA test is followed by a further test called the Western Blot test.
Western Blot test
The Western Blot test involves taking a small sample of your blood. The blood is placed in a special machine that works in a similar way to a blender by separating and collecting antibodies.
If both the results of the ELISA test and the Western Blot test are positive, a confident diagnosis of Lyme disease can usually be made.
Treatment at D2 Medical
Antibiotic tablets (oral antibiotics) are recommended for the treatment of early-stage Lyme disease. Most people will require a 2-3-week course of antibiotics. If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is important that you finish the course even if you are feeling better because this will ensure that all the bacteria are destroyed.
Mid- and late-stage Lyme disease can also be treated with antibiotics. If your symptoms are particularly severe, antibiotic injections (intravenous antibiotics) may be used. Most people with mid- and late-stage Lyme disease will require a prolonged course of antibiotics.
The antibiotics that are used to treat Lyme disease (both oral and intravenous) can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Therefore, you should avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and avoid using tanning equipment until you have finished the course.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
If you are pregnant and get Lyme disease, treatment with antibiotics will not pose any additional risk to your unborn baby.
As the bacteria that cause Lyme disease cannot be passed on through breast milk, it is safe to continue breastfeeding if you have Lyme disease.