Sat Nov 16, 2002 - 11:53 PM ET
Many cases of Lyme disease are misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed.
So says the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) (CDC) estimates there are 19,000 new cases of Lyme disease in the United States each year. However, ILADS doctors say the number of new infections may be more than 200,000.
Lyme disease was first recognized in 1977 in Connecticut. Since then, tens of thousands of people with Lyme disease have been misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and multiple sclerosis, ILADS says.
By the time they're correctly diagnosed, some people with Lyme disease are in the chronic stage and treatment is much more difficult. Lyme disease can cause health complications ranging from seizures to retinitis to sudden cardiac death.
Many doctors don't know how to recognize Lyme disease and have to rely on outdated diagnosis and treatment information, ILADS says.
To address the problem, ILADS recently introduced new detection and treatment guidelines for Lyme disease.
Doctors are often told to look for a red bull's eye rash caused by a tick infected with Lyme disease. However, ILADS experts say less than half those with Lyme disease develop a rash and fewer than half ever recall getting a tick bite.
ILADS says doctors need to look for a wider range of complaints that may indicate Lyme disease. These include fever, joint pain or arthritis, facial palsy, headaches, dizziness, sudden weight change, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, depression and disorientation.
An enzyme-linked immunosorbent (ELISA) test is used by most doctors to detect Lyme disease. However, ILADS says doctors need to do a variety of tests to assess Lyme antigens and antibodies and to detect Lyme DNA.
The new ILADS guidelines also call for more aggressive treatment of Lyme disease in both early and late stages. Current recommendations for early Lyme disease call for a two to three weeks of treatment with oral antibiotics.
ILADS says that's not sufficient and recommends six to eight weeks of
oral antibiotics to treat early stage cases of Lyme disease. People with
chronic Lyme disease may need to take antibiotics even longer and may also
need to take them intravenously.
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