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Misdiagnosis of Lyme disease

Misdiagnosis of Lyme disease

A diagnosis of Lyme disease may be overlooked because a person may be unaware that he or she has been bitten by an infected tick. In addition, not all people develop the classic "bull's eye" lesion of Lyme disease. Other symptoms, such as fever, headache, swollen lymph glands (lymphedema), and malaise, are vague and can be attributed to other diseases, such as influenza....more about Lyme disease »

Lyme disease misdiagnosis: Lyme disease was cited by Reader's Digest as one of the top 10 misdiagnosed diseases. In the article entitled "10 Diseases Doctors Miss", the 10 diseases mentioned were hepatitis C, lupus, celiac disease, hemochromatosis, aneurysm, Lyme disease, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), chlamydia, and sleep apnea. 1...more about Lyme disease »

Alternative diagnoses list for Lyme disease:

For a diagnosis of Lyme disease, the following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as possible alternative diagnoses to consider during the diagnostic process for Lyme disease:

Diseases for which Lyme disease may be an alternative diagnosis

The other diseases for which Lyme disease is listed as a possible alternative diagnosis in their lists include:

Lyme disease: Hidden Causes Misdiagnosed?

Causes of Lyme disease may include these medical conditions:

  • Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. Infected ticks spread the bacteria by biting people or animals
  • Deer ticks
  • Western black-legged ticks
  • more causes...»

Lyme disease: Medical Mistakes

Related medical mistakes may include:

Lyme disease: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed conditions in related areas may include:

Common Misdiagnoses and Lyme disease

Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to diagnose, and all can present in a variety of different severities. Diseases in this group include multiple sclerosis, lupus, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism), chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes - all of these can have vague symptoms in their early presentations. Also, depression can have some symptoms similar to these conditions, and also the reverse, that many of these conditions can mimic depression and be misdiagnosed as depression.

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, but can also kill the "good" bacteria in the gut. This leads to "digestive imbalance" where there are too few remaining "good" bacteria in the digestive system. The treatment is typically to use "probiotics", such as by eating yoghurt cultures containing more of the good bacteria. See digestive imbalance and probiotics.

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection, such as a common cold.

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears off after about 15 years. Thus, any teen or adult with a persistent cough may actually have whooping cough. This is particularly dangerous for babies too young to be vaccinated, and any un-vaccinated children. Whooping cough can be fatal to an infant. The cough symptoms of whooping cough is usually productive initially, but then becomes a persistent dry cough, lasting up to 100 days. Elderly grandparents may also be a reservoir of undiagnosed whooping cough.

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis). See symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency or misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Failure To Diagnose Lyme disease

Failure to diagnose Lyme disease may be associated with the following:

  • The range of symptoms that may be caused by Lyme disease is very extensive and there are numerous types of presentations which can make diagnosis very difficult
  • Symptoms of Lyme disease mimic many other conditions which can further complicate diagnosis. Symptoms may occur within weeks after a tick bite or may not occur for years
  • Many of the symptoms caused by Lyme disease are put down to other unrelated causes
  • Patients with prior conditions who contract Lyme disease may be even harder to diagnose as any new symptoms may be dismissed as caused by the existing condition
  • Diagnosis is complicated by testing methods. Testing for bacterial antibodies within 5 weeks of being bitten by an infected tick may come back a false negative. Antibody testing after 5 weeks is also not conclusive
  • Lyme disease is readily treatable with antibiotics, especially if diagnosed in the early stages. Delayed diagnosis can result in permanent joint or nervous system damage
  • Many health professionals rely on the presence of a characteristic rash (erythema migrans rash) before they will suspect Lyme disease even though about half of infected people don't develop the characteristic rash
  • The greater the delay in treatment, the longer it takes for symptoms to disappear
  • Untreated Lyme disease can spread to other parts of the body where it can cause various complications that can range from joint pain to severe major organ problems
  • The ticks that carry Lyme disease bacteria may also carry other parasites at the same time and therefore a person may be infected with Lyme disease as well as other conditions such as Ehrlichiosis and babesiosis. This can make diagnosis more difficult

Notes On Hidden Causes Of Lyme disease

The following may be hidden causes of Lyme disease:

  • Infection occurs through the bite of a tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi

Notes On Wrong Diagnosis Of Lyme disease

Wrong diagnosis of Lyme disease may be associated with the following:

  • Lyme disease is often wrongly diagnosed as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia

Complications Of Misdiagnosis Of Lyme disease

The following may be complications of misdiagnosis of Lyme disease:

  • Joint pain and swelling due to Lyme disease may be misdiagnosed simply as arthritis
  • Facial paralysis, pain and numbness due to Lyme disease may be misdiagnosed as isolated Bell's palsy
  • Headache, fever and stiff neck due to Lyme disease may be misdiagnosed as viral meningitis
  • Irregular heart rhythm due to Lyme disease may be misdiagnosed as an isolated heart rhythm disorder
  • A rash caused by Lyme disease may be dismissed as hives, sunburn, eczema, poison ivy, flea bite or insect bite. The rash may be of varying size, shape and colour and sometimes it is itchy or hot
  • A rash caused by a tick infected with Lyme disease may be misdiagnosed as an insect or spider bite
  • The initial flu-like symptoms and fatigue sometimes associated with Lyme disease may be ignored or deemed to be caused by the flu
  • The ring-like rash caused by Lyme disease has been misdiagnosed a a ringworm infection

Other Notes On Misdiagnosis Of Lyme disease

  • A rash that develops at the site of a tick bite may be due to Lyme disease or may be an allergic reaction to tick saliva

Medical news summaries about misdiagnosis of Lyme disease:

The following medical news items are relevant to misdiagnosis of Lyme disease:

General Misdiagnosis Articles

Read these general articles with an overview of misdiagnosis issues.

About misdiagnosis:

When checking for a misdiagnosis of Lyme disease or confirming a diagnosis of Lyme disease, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible misdiagnoses or other alternative conditions relevant to diagnosis. These alternate diagnoses of Lyme disease may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of Lyme disease. For a general overview of misdiagnosis issues for all diseases, see Overview of Misdiagnosis.

1. Reader's Digest, February 2004, "10 Diseases Doctors Miss", page 120

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