It may seem a bit strange that such a common disease is misdiagnosed by medical professionals, but there are a variety of reasons that misdiagnosis occurs:
- Positive Tests – People sometimes test positive for Lyme disease when they have a different illness altogether.
- Negative Tests – At times, people test negative despite having the disease.
- Exposure – In some instances, people test positive but only because they have been exposed to the illness at some point in their lives. These people may have the Lyme disease in their bloodstream but exhibit no active symptoms or illness.
One of the other reasons Lyme disease is so commonly misdiagnosed is because the symptoms can be attributed to other chronic illnesses. Diseases that have symptoms similar to those experienced by patients with Lyme disease include fibromyalgia, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
When people first develop Lyme disease, their symptoms resemble those of the flu. People may experience chills, muscle aches, fever, nausea, joint pain and fatigue. Some patients also experience a rash or facial drooping.
It was previously thought that the best indicator of Lyme disease was it’s telltale bull’s eye rash. It has been discovered that as little as 30 percent of patients may develop any sort of rash. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 42 percent of patients who had contracted the potentially deadly Lyme carditis developed a rash.
Early Lyme Disease
When a person is first bitten by a tick that is carrying Lyme, they may feel nothing more than an itchy area surrounding the bite. In the days that follow, the person may experience a headache, fever and muscle aches. In many cases, people don’t remember being bitten by the tick or believe that they are simply coming down with the flu. Because of this, many people do not seek treatment. This is a mistake because Lyme disease, if not treated early and correctly, can develop into a chronic form of the disease.
Chronic Lyme Disease
When Lyme disease is not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, it can spread and hide throughout the body. It may take only weeks or as long as years to develop problems. People with chronic Lyme disease may eventually develop issues with the heart, circulation, the brain, the nervous system, digestion and the skin. Some people even experience issues with the reproductive system.
Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease may disappear and reappear. Patients who have received treatment in the early stages of the illness may still develop the chronic form. It is unknown exactly how many people remain ill, but it is estimated that approximately 10 to 20 percent of those treated in the early stages will develop the chronic form.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease
Diagnosing the illness can be difficult because of false positives and incorrect negatives. Two-tiered testing is though to be the best method. In this type of test, a person is screened for the disease and, if they test positive or if they test negative and symptoms persist, they will be tested a second time.
Even though the two-tiered test is considered the most reliable, it is still inaccurate 54 percent of the time. There are also culture tests available, though not all are considered equal to one another. It is recommended by most professionals that a patient and their doctor discuss the tests that are available and the best choice for that particular patient.
There is conflict when it comes to how Lyme disease should be treated. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) believes that a course of antibiotics is all that is needed. The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) recommends a more individualized approach to treatment.
In general ILADS recommends a longer course of antibiotics. They also do not recommend waiting to begin treatment until lab tests are returned. What is agreed is that the earlier that treatment begins, the better for the patient. In cases of chronic Lyme disease, both the disease and the symptoms must be treated.
If you live in an area where tick bites are common, protect yourself with a tick repelling spray every time you go outside. Lyme disease can be easily treated or it can become a chronic condition with lifelong consequences. The best way to treat Lyme disease, ultimately, is to not contract it at all.
If you believe that you have been misdiagnosed by a doctor in New York, you may have the right to compensation. Reach out to our team of medical malpractice attorneys for a free case evaluation and discover more about your legal options.