Healthy Living

Why Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lyme Disease Are Getting Misdiagnosed for Each Other

Misdiagnosis can be prevented

Due to the fact that the symptomatology of RA and Lyme disease is rather similar, it is easy to see how they may be confused for one another. Still, it is important to avoid misdiagnosis so as to result in better outcomes.

  • See a doctor to rule out RA: While there is no single test specifically designed for diagnosing RA, a blood test can look for antibodies linked to the disease. Treatment for RA includes long-term medication, exercise, physical therapy, and possible surgical intervention.
  • Get a rheumatoid factor test: A rheumatoid factor test is a blood test that checks for a protein called rheumatoid factor. High levels of the factor are associated with autoimmune disorders, especially RA.
  • Get a blood test for Lyme disease: Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test is the preferred test for the diagnosis of Lyme disease. It detects antibodies to the Borrelia type bacteria. It is common to get a false positive result early in the infection, which is why the ELISA test is most reliable a few weeks after an infection. In any case, treatment should not be delayed. Without treatment, symptoms may disappear for a while but then recur with the onset of more severe complications.
  • Get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test: A polymerase chain reaction test is used to screen individuals with persistent Lyme arthritis. It is performed on spinal or joint fluid.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if bullseye rash occurs: Bullseye rash is a characteristic symptom of Lyme disease that occurs in over 70% of individuals who have been bitten by a tick infected with Borrelia type bacteria. The rash generally appears days to weeks after the bite and it tends to spread outward.