Lyme titer blood testing is very similar to other titer tests for different diseases. When an illness strikes, the body creates antibodies to combat the invader. Bacteria, viruses, fungi – they’re all treated the same. The goal is to kill off the invader to restore health. Lyme disease can be particularly difficult to detect or treat because the bacteria can actually create a “shell” which prevents the antibodies from attacking it. That’s where this blood test can become quite helpful.
Lyme disease takes two forms: active and chronic. The chronic infection can be particularly devastating because they symptoms may be vague, but progressive and potentially debilitating. Chronic infections may even affect the heart. It is spread by ticks and creates a distinctive bulls-eye rash at the infection site, but up to half of people don’t experience this symptom. This test can determine if antibodies are present, if they’ve ever been present, and how active the infection happens to be.
What Do My Test Results Mean?
If you’ve received a Lyme titer blood test, then it is important to always receive a second opinion from a disease literate doctor. Not every provider has experience with Lyme disease, especially in areas that are not prone to the ticks that spread it. The test results may be misinterpreted, which is why a second opinion is mandatory.
Most people who have the Lyme titer blood test will have a negative result. This means that not only do they not have an active infection of the disease, but they’ve never been infected by the bacteria that is spread by the ticks that carry it… in theory. If a doctor suspects Lyme disease and prescribes antibiotics for early intervention, this can actually reduce the antibody response to the disease and make it undetectable, therefore creating the potential of a false negative.
When there is a positive test, then this means that at some point in time, there was a bacterial infection. The body may have fought off the infection or it may have been removed by antibiotics. The level of antibodies that are present may also indicate the level of infection that is present. More antibodies may indicate an acute infection or a relapse of a chronic infection.
Lyme Titer Blood Tests Are Not Used For Screening
The immunoblot process is not an effective screening tool for the presence of Lyme disease because there are so many different variables that may be present. Some people may not have increased reactivity to a Lyme titer blood test for up to 6 months after the initial infection period passes. Although certain serums can be detected as early as 14 days after the onset of the disease, this may be enough time to have the disease transition from an acute infection to a chronic infection.
Individuals who have early stage Lyme disease often do not have enough antibodies present for a positive test result to be generated. In those who have a suppressed immune system for any reason may have test results that are difficult to interpret. Women who are pregnant may also have conflicting results from the general population.
In addition to the false negative results, a false positive result can occur in individuals who have received blood products within the past year, either from transfusions, because of surgery, or for other reasons. Certain diseases, the flu, and multiple sclerosis may also generate false positive results that send medical providers down an inaccurate treatment path.
Is a Lyme Literate Doctor Necessary For Treatment?
Not necessarily. Lyme literate doctors provide a higher level of care for those who suspect they have undiagnosed chronic conditions. They will often treat the symptoms that are being caused by the suspected bacteria, even if the blood tests come back as negative, based on their experience with the disease. That’s why having a second opinion for a chronic infection issue is always a good thing.
For acute infections, many doctors will simply prescribe antibiotics and follow-up at a later time.
The issue with Lyme disease is that literate doctors are not often covered by health insurance. Many LLMDs don’t even take insurance payments, which means the cost of any treatment and prescription comes out of pocket. This can be several hundred dollars per visit.
When bothersome symptoms do not go away or if there is a shortness of breath or arrhythmia of the heart which occasionally occurs, then having a Lyme liter blood test is a smart decision. Lyme infections have happened in all 50 states, so even in low-risk areas, there is the possibility of a tick bite. Because the ticks are so small, they often go undetected, further complicating the issue. By having an idea of antibodies are present, however, it becomes possible to begin finding a treatment regimen.