Should you get tested for Lyme disease?

Should you get tested for Lyme disease?

Being in the great outdoors is beyond beneficial for your health and well-being no doubt, but there are a few things that can wreak havoc on your fun. One is a tick bite, and if that tick is carrying a certain pathogenic bacterium, it can cause Lyme disease.

“Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can have a wide range of symptoms that can take days to even months to show up,” says Amanda Hiemstra, a nurse practitioner at Aurora Health Care. “Closely watch the tick bite site for 30 days for early signs, and then continue to watch over the next several months for later symptoms. If you experience any symptoms, see a medical professional right away. The earlier Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, the better.”

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • Early signs (3-30 days after tick bite):
    • Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle or joint aches, or swollen lymph nodes.
    • Rash anywhere on the body that expands gradually, often has a bull’s eye appearance, and may feel warm but rarely itchy or painful.
  • Later signs (days to months after bite)
    • Severe headaches, stiff neck, loss of facial muscle tone or drooping, or irregular heartbeat.
    • Knee or other joint pain and swelling, nerve pain, or shooting pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet.

Hiemstra says to diagnose Lyme disease, your clinician will review your symptoms, other potential causes and the possibility you were exposed to ticks.

“If you live in an area where ticks and Lyme disease are common, the rash may be all that is needed to make the diagnosis,” she says. “Other times, a sample of your blood may be tested for antibodies to the Lyme-causing bacteria. These antibodies can take many weeks to develop, and sometimes the first test can come back negative if the infection was within the last month or so. A second test may need to be run later.”

Experts advise the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites in the first place. But if you do find a tick attached to your skin, make sure to remove it properly.

Do you have hip or knee pain? Take a free online quiz to learn more. 

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About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.