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Identifying Lyme Disease Stages
Since 1975, when the disease was first identified in Old Lyme, Connecticut, Lyme disease has spread to most of the United States with about 16,000 new cases each year, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Three stages of Lyme disease have been identified as follows:
- Stage 1 begins within a few weeks of an infected tick bite with a red spot at the site of the bite. This red spot expands into a red rash in a circular area with the spot in the middle that looks like a bull's eye. The rash and infection can spread from a small dime-size area to cover a large portion of the body.
- Stage 2 begins with symptoms that resemble the flu, such as fatigue, headaches, fever, a stiff neck and aching joints.
- Stage 3 is considered chronic Lyme disease in which initial antibiotic treatment was ineffective or absent. Symptoms include arthritis; neurological involvement, such as severe headache, Bell's palsy, numbness or weakness in extremities and poor coordination; and heart abnormalities which include chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath and rhythm irregularities.
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Diagnosing Lyme Disease
When signs of Lyme disease are present, laboratory tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Early blood tests may give a false reading within the first month, since the body has not had time to develop antibodies to the disease.
The first blood test is usually an ELISA test, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test, to determine the presence of Lyme disease antibodies. If the ELISA shows positive results, the test must be followed by a Western blot test to confirm a diagnosis.
MayoClinic.com reports a polymerase chain reaction test, or PCR, may be used to identify bacterial DNA in fluid drawn from an infected joint. This test is used mostly in determining the presence of chronic Lyme disease with arthritic symptoms.
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The arthritic symptoms of stage 3 Lyme disease, also known as Lyme arthritis, include pain and swelling in the joints, particularly in the large joints. Lyme arthritis usually affects only one joint, such as the knee, reports FamilyDoctor.org. Other joints may be affected, and the disease may move from one joint to another.
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Joint Pain Treatment
Initial treatment options include antibiotics such as doxycycline, cefuroxime and amoxicillin as soon as the tick is found or when the rash appears.
Treatment for joint pain after Lyme disease is in chronic or stage 3 includes antibiotics and medications to reduce swelling in the joints. The antibiotics may be given for several weeks or months. In some cases, the antibiotic may be given intravenously.
PDRhealth.com reports that most patients recover completely from antibiotic treatment in the early stages or from extended antibiotic in the later stages of Lyme disease; however, a small percentage have persistent or chronic joint pain, even after the full antibiotic regimen.
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University of Maryland Medical Center: Lyme Disease Stages
MayoClinic: Diagnosing Lyme Disease
FamilyDoctor.org: Lyme Arthritis
PDRhealth.com: Joint Pain Treatment
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Lyme Disease: Prevention, Symptoms, Treatement, and Blood Tests for Lyme Disease
The Significance of Lyme Disease C6 Test Levels