Lyme Disease | Testing and Diagnosis

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What are the tests for Lyme disease?

It is possible to test for Lyme disease, but the tests aren’t very reliable in the early stages of infection, since it takes time for your child’s immune system to produce the response that the tests look for. That means that your child’s test may come back negative, but may still have Lyme disease.

If your child has started — or even finished — treatment for Lyme disease,  he or she may still test positive for it. That’s because there are still antibodies in her blood that the test identifies as fighting the disease, even though the Lyme bacterium is no longer present, and your child is no longer infected.

Since testing in the early stages — when the rash first appears — is unreliable, doctors diagnose Lyme disease based on the presence of physical symptoms (such as the rash) plus known or possible exposure to ticks carrying the bacteria. Research is underway to develop and improve methods for diagnosing Lyme disease.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis, and since Lyme disease can resemble many other conditions, it’s important that your child be seen by an experienced physician. Your child’s doctor may: 

  • perform a physical exam, looking for evidence of the erythema migrans rash
  • ask questions about any activities that may have brought your child into contact with ticks, if there’s been no known tick bite
  • order lab tests in order to rule out other conditions
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