Lyme Disease (cont.)
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Exams and Tests
Lyme disease may be hard to diagnose because its symptoms are like those of many other illnesses. Your doctor will take a careful medical history and do a physical examination to help diagnose early Lyme disease. You may be asked whether you have recently visited an area where you may have been exposed to ticks. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and look for physical signs that may indicate Lyme disease. The clearest physical sign is an expanding, circular red rash (called erythema migrans). See a picture of a Lyme disease rash.
Lyme disease tests are blood tests that help confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease. These tests can detect antibodies to the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that cause Lyme disease. Although blood tests are fairly reliable, they may not be needed. The decision about when to use blood tests for Lyme disease depends on whether your doctor strongly thinks you have Lyme disease and whether the test results will change the course of your treatment.
It is important to get treatment for Lyme disease as soon as possible. Talk to your doctor if you have had a tick attached to your skin, especially if you live in an area where people have reported getting Lyme disease. Also watch for early symptoms of Lyme disease, such as a slowly expanding rash or flu-like symptoms.
If possible, put the tick that was attached to you in a dry jar or a ziplock bag and take it to the doctor with you. Sometimes tests can be done on the tick to see if it is a carrier of Lyme disease.
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