Tick Tock…the Lyme Disease Clock
Early Diagnosis is Key for Lyme Disease Treatment
By: Dana D Myers, Director of Marketing, PSP
Pennsylvania…the home to countless hiking trails…beautiful Amish farmland…the Pocono and Alleghany mountains…and over 100 state parks…is also the home to millions of other unfortunate inhabitants…deer ticks.
And if the presence of deer ticks is not disturbing enough, the aftermath of their visits can have lifelong debilitating effects; especially if left undetected.
The blacklegged deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) carry the bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. For the third year in a row, Pennsylvania has led the nation in confirmed cases of Lyme disease, with over 7,400 cases. In addition, deer ticks have been found in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, neurological problems, a bull’s eye rash, and other symptoms that are similar to the flu or infectious mononucleosis (mono).
When Lyme disease is detected early, it can be treated with antibiotics. However, if it is untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system. Early diagnosis is the key to avoiding debilitating late-stage complications, such as migratory pain or arthritis, impaired motor and sensory skills, and an enlarged heart. Late-stage Lyme disease can make even simple movements excruciatingly painful.
Dr. Larry Franks, Co-founder of Pennsylvania Specialty Pathology (PSP) said,
“Blood tests can help to confirm or dispel the Lyme diagnosis. Most commonly a two-tiered testing panel is used-an initial high sensitivity screening test for the antibody against the bacterium is done. If this is indeterminate or positive, it is followed by a confirmatory high specificity test looking for antibodies against proteins specific to the organism. A direct method that tests for the DNA of the bacterium can also be performed. In must be kept in mind that, in the initial period immediately after a tick bite, there can be an increased incidence of false negative results. However, if Lyme disease is detected, the sooner you begin treatment, the better your prognosis.”
After being outside, check for ticks. If you find a tick, remove it completely and monitor the area for a month. The tick should be saved and taken to a medical laboratory where it can be used to identify the tick species or to test it for the bacterial DNA. If symptoms develop, see your physician immediately. Even if you did not actually find a tick, but you develop symptoms, discuss the possibility of Lyme disease with your physician.