What Is a Lyme Disease
disease antibody test is used to determine if you have been infected with
Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease
antibody tests are conducted with a routine blood draw.
is transmitted to humans through ticks that are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. Symptoms of
Lyme disease include:
rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye
Lyme disease can affect your heart and nervous system. Symptoms of advanced
Lyme disease can include loss of muscle tone in the face, memory loss, and
tingling in your hands and feet.
can be difficult to diagnose. Ticks are very small and the bites are not always
noticeable. Symptoms of the disease can vary from person to person. Not
everyone experiences the classic “bull’s-eye” rash pattern around a tick bite.
Your doctor will use the results of your Lyme disease antibody test along with
the report of your symptoms to confirm a diagnosis.
What Are Antibodies?
are proteins your body makes in response to foreign or harmful substances,
called antigens. Common antigens include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and
produces antibodies if you are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
These Lyme disease-specific antibodies will be present in your blood and your
test will be positive.
If you have
never been exposed to Borrelia
burgdorferi, you will not have any Lyme disease antibodies in your
bloodstream. In this case, your test will be negative.
You may test
negative for Lyme disease in the early days and weeks after infection. This is
because your body has not yet produced a significant number of antibodies. You
will usually test positive for Lyme disease starting at about four weeks after
Lyme Disease Antibody Test
disease antibody test requires no advanced preparation. A lab technician will
swab the inside of your elbow with an antiseptic before drawing your blood. Your
blood will be drawn from a vein in your arm using a small needle. The blood
draw should not be painful, though you might feel a slight prick when the
needle is inserted into your vein.
sample will be collected in a vial. The puncture site will be bandaged, if
needed, after the needle is removed. After the blood draw, you are free to go
Risks of a Lyme Disease
very few risks associated with the Lyme disease antibody test. Excessive
bleeding is possible, but there may be an increased risk if you take blood thinning
medications or certain anti-inflammatory drugs like:
the puncture site is also possible, but unlikely. Keep the bandage in place
until all bleeding has stopped, and keep the area clean. Some people feel lightheaded
after having blood drawn. Let the technician know if this is the case. You
might be asked to sit for a few minutes before going home.
Testing for Lyme Disease at
antibodies can be detected through a series of tests at a laboratory.
antibody: a large molecule present in the blood when you have an infection
antibody: another molecule that fights bacterial infection
stands for “enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay”
and detects antibodies in your bloodstream
blot: a follow-up test that detects proteins and antibodies in the blood
The IgM and
IgG tests are performed first. If you test positive for these antibodies, it’s
likely that you have or had Lyme disease. A positive result on the ELISA test
means Lyme disease is likely, but must be confirmed with a Western blot. The
Western blot test is the definitive diagnosis for Lyme disease.
Following up After the
have been infected with Lyme disease, the antibodies remain in your blood. So,
even after you have been treated for the disease, you might still have positive
is treated with antibiotics. Your doctor will discuss your course of treatment
in detail if you have tested positive for Lyme disease.