The Importance of Early Detection in Lyme Disease

Do you live in an area where there is a lot of Lyme disease? A recent study suggests it would be a good idea for you, and for your doctor, to learn more about diagnosing this tick-borne disease. The report purports that without knowledge and experience, there is a high risk of not recognizing the disease, which causes misdiagnosis and a lot of wasted time.

Of all the diseases you can get from insects and other unwelcome vectors, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported. In fact, it regularly makes the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) list of Nationally Notifiable diseases. Between 2008 and 2009, confirmed cases increased by 3.6 percent and probable cases by 35.6 percent.

According to the CDC, the disease is present in nearly every state, but 95 percent of the cases occurred in just a dozen of them: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts,  Connecticut, Wisconsin,  Maryland,  Minnesota, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine and Virginia.

Authors of the most recent study reviewed 165 cases of suspected Lyme disease. Of these people, 101 had or probably had the disease, but only 88 percent of them ever developed the characteristic rash. Of these, the rash was missed at first in seven cases and wrongly identified in 13. Seven of the 13 who never developed a rash were misdiagnosed and 11 were treated with the wrong antibiotics.

The researchers conclude that we need to pay more attention to three main points: (1) accurate identification of the rash that is frequently, but not always, present (2) better identification of cases with viral-like symptoms but no rash and (3) proper choice of antibiotics to treat suspected cases in high-risk parts of the country.

All of the patients were from Maryland and statistics might differ in other regions, but at least these people benefited from the use of some sophisticated diagnostic tests that are not used very often by family doctors.

If you suspect Lyme disease, seek out a physician with a lot of experience diagnosing it. In most cases, it is easily cured with prompt treatment. The best advice is to cover yourself well, use tick-repellant spray and check yourself for the tiny, creepy disease carriers known as deer ticks.

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