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Ticks (cont.)

How Do Doctors Diagnose a Tick Bite?

There are no tests that identify either tick bites or the type of tick once the tick dislodges from the body. However, physicians can conduct a careful examination of the entire body, looking for ticks still attached, rashes, or signs of a tick-caused disease. If the tick is identified, the physician can better determine what tests should be done. The third web citation has photos of ticks that can help distinguish ticks from biting insects such as fleas or bedbugs. Identification of the tick genus and species may help the physician determine what further tests may be appropriate. For example,

  • blood tests for diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, and tularemia are generally not positive for weeks after the exposure, even though symptoms may be present, and
  • examination of blood under a microscope is necessary to diagnose the parasite that causes Babesiosis. Knowledge of the type of tick that caused the bite can help narrow the physician's list of possible diagnoses and even allow the physician to proceed with early therapy before a positive diagnosis is made.

Exams and tests should be done if an individual exhibits symptoms after a tick bite; most tick bites do not result in symptoms. If symptoms develop after a tick bite, the determination of which tests need to be performed is best done in consultation with an infectious-disease specialist.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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