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Diagnosing Lyme disease can be difficult

Oregon patients who suffer from Lyme disease know all too well that it can be tricky to diagnose. This can lead to misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatments, which can cause significant patient harm.

Lyme disease is typically diagnosed through a series of blood tests that look for antibodies for the Lyme infection. When people are infected, their body will produce Lyme-specific antibodies to fight the infection. Therefore, if a blood test shows the presence of these particular antibodies, it means that the patients were at least exposed to Lyme disease at some point in their lives.

However, just because people have Lyme-specific antibodies, it doesn't mean they definitively have Lyme disease. It is possible that they were infected years ago and fought off the disease after a mild illness. Before beginning treatment, a doctor should see if a patient's history includes Lyme disease symptoms, such as a rash, palpitations and flu-like symptoms. The doctor should also check for the possibility of tick exposure. If a patient doesn't respond to treatment within a few weeks, the diagnosis should be carefully reevaluated. Lyme disease treatments can cause harmful side effects, and doctors should consider other diagnoses if an individual is not improving. It is possible the patient has a different condition that is being left untreated by a misdiagnosis.

The failure to properly diagnose a disease can lead to a worsened condition that could require additional and expensive medical treatment. Not all such failures constitute medical malpractice however, and an attorney will attempt to determine whether the doctor failed to exhibit the requisite standard of care through a review of the patient's records and consultation with medical experts.

Source: Contagion Live, "Treating a Misdiagnosis of Lyme Disease," Oct. 7, 2016

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