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Lyme disease blood test

Lyme disease serology; ELISA for Lyme disease; Western blot for Lyme disease

 

The Lyme disease blood test looks for antibodies in the blood to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The test is used to help diagnose Lyme disease.

How the Test is Performed

 

A blood sample is needed.

A laboratory specialist looks for Lyme disease antibodies in the blood sample using the ELISA test. If the ELISA test is positive, it must be confirmed with another test called the Western blot test.

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

You do not need special steps to prepare for this test.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

The test is done to help confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease.

 

Normal Results

 

A negative test result is normal. This means none or few antibodies to Lyme disease were seen in your blood sample. If the ELISA test is negative, usually no other testing is needed.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your health care provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

A positive ELISA result is abnormal. This means antibodies were seen in your blood sample. But, this does not confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease. A positive ELISA result must be followed up with a Western blot test. Only a positive Western blot test can confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease.

For many people, the ELISA test remains positive, even after they have been treated for Lyme disease and no longer have symptoms.

A positive ELISA test may also occur with certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

 

Risks

 

Veins and arteries vary in size, so it may be harder to take a blood sample from one person than another.

Other slight risks from having blood drawn may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

 

 

References

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Lyme disease antibody - blood. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:745-747.

Steere AC. Lyme disease (lyme Borreliosis) due to Borrelia burgdorferi. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 243.

 
  • Blood test

    Blood test - illustration

    Blood is drawn from a vein (venipuncture), usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. Preparation may vary depending on the specific test.

    Blood test

    illustration

  • Lyme disease organism, Borrelia burgdorferi

    Lyme disease organism, Borrelia burgdorferi - illustration

    Borrelia burgdorferi is a spirochete bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It is similar in shape to the spirochetes that cause other diseases, such as relapsing fever and syphilis. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Borrelia burgdorferi

    Lyme disease organism, Borrelia burgdorferi

    illustration

  • Deer ticks

    Deer ticks - illustration

    Diseases are often carried by ticks, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Lyme disease, and tularemia. Less common or less frequent diseases include typhus, Q-fever, relapsing fever, viral encephalitis, hemorrhagic fever, and babesiosis.

    Deer ticks

    illustration

  • Ticks

    Ticks - illustration

    There are many species of ticks. Of these, a large proportion are capable of carrying disease. Diseases carried by ticks include Lyme disease, Erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, tularemia, typhus, hemorrhagic fever, and viral encephalitis. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Ticks

    illustration

  • Lyme disease - Borrelia burgdorferi organism

    Lyme disease - Borrelia burgdorferi organism - illustration

    Borrelia burgdorferi.

    Lyme disease - Borrelia burgdorferi organism

    illustration

  • Tick imbedded in the skin

    Tick imbedded in the skin - illustration

    This is a close-up photograph of a tick embedded in the skin. Ticks are important because they can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, Lyme disease, and others.

    Tick imbedded in the skin

    illustration

  • Antibodies

    Antibodies - illustration

    Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles. The immune system recognizes antigens and produces antibodies that destroy substances containing antigens.

    Antibodies

    illustration

  • Tertiary Lyme disease

    Tertiary Lyme disease - illustration

    Tertiary Lyme disease is a late, persistent inflammatory disease characterized by skin changes, neurological and musculoskeletal symptoms caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi transmitted by the bite of a tick. Tertiary Lyme disease is indicated by chronic arthritis. Borrelia burgdorferi

    Tertiary Lyme disease

    illustration

    • Blood test

      Blood test - illustration

      Blood is drawn from a vein (venipuncture), usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. Preparation may vary depending on the specific test.

      Blood test

      illustration

    • Lyme disease organism, Borrelia burgdorferi

      Lyme disease organism, Borrelia burgdorferi - illustration

      Borrelia burgdorferi is a spirochete bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It is similar in shape to the spirochetes that cause other diseases, such as relapsing fever and syphilis. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Borrelia burgdorferi

      Lyme disease organism, Borrelia burgdorferi

      illustration

    • Deer ticks

      Deer ticks - illustration

      Diseases are often carried by ticks, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Lyme disease, and tularemia. Less common or less frequent diseases include typhus, Q-fever, relapsing fever, viral encephalitis, hemorrhagic fever, and babesiosis.

      Deer ticks

      illustration

    • Ticks

      Ticks - illustration

      There are many species of ticks. Of these, a large proportion are capable of carrying disease. Diseases carried by ticks include Lyme disease, Erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, tularemia, typhus, hemorrhagic fever, and viral encephalitis. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Ticks

      illustration

    • Lyme disease - Borrelia burgdorferi organism

      Lyme disease - Borrelia burgdorferi organism - illustration

      Borrelia burgdorferi.

      Lyme disease - Borrelia burgdorferi organism

      illustration

    • Tick imbedded in the skin

      Tick imbedded in the skin - illustration

      This is a close-up photograph of a tick embedded in the skin. Ticks are important because they can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, Lyme disease, and others.

      Tick imbedded in the skin

      illustration

    • Antibodies

      Antibodies - illustration

      Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles. The immune system recognizes antigens and produces antibodies that destroy substances containing antigens.

      Antibodies

      illustration

    • Tertiary Lyme disease

      Tertiary Lyme disease - illustration

      Tertiary Lyme disease is a late, persistent inflammatory disease characterized by skin changes, neurological and musculoskeletal symptoms caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi transmitted by the bite of a tick. Tertiary Lyme disease is indicated by chronic arthritis. Borrelia burgdorferi

      Tertiary Lyme disease

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

    Talking to your MD

     

      Self Care

       

        Tests for Lyme disease blood test

         

         

        Review Date: 12/10/2015

        Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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