You Might Want a Second Opinion on that Lyme Disease Diagnosis

You Might Want a Second Opinion on that Lyme Disease Diagnosis

Lyme disease, a tick-borne malady that can carry a real wallop for its flu-like and even more serious symptoms, is a concern in many states across the country, including Missouri.

Here’s a particularly noteworthy problem associated with the ailment, as noted in a recent media article discussing it: The disease “can mimic dozens of other ailments,” which renders it comparatively susceptible to incorrect diagnosis. And when a diagnosis of Lyme disease mistakenly issues, treatment can go down the wrong track. That in turn can be both harmful in itself and delay an accurate diagnosis of what is actually wrong with a patient.

Obviously, that can have serious — even fatal — ramifications. The special challenges posed by Lyme disease and its accurate diagnosis are highlighted in a medical report published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, which notes several cases where patients’ illnesses were tardily noted because of an initially incorrect Lyme disease diagnosis.

In all the cases examined, the underlying culprit was cancer. Misdiagnosis in all instances resulted in the serious delay of urgently needed treatments, with one patient dying after it was determined that, rather than having Lyme disease, he actually had stage IV lymphoma.

A medical officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that Lyme misdiagnosis resulting in the delayed treatment of another existing illness or disease is far from being an uncommon occurrence. The cases highlighted in the JAMA journal, she says, “are the tip of the iceberg.”

Many doctors and CDC health experts are skeptical of some Lyme disease diagnoses, believing that too quickly assigning that label to an ailment marked by vague symptoms and then prescribing prolonged antibiotic therapies can mask underlying illnesses and delay their treatment.

Patients might want to remember and well note that skepticism in the event that they find themselves heading to their local pharmacy to pick up medicine prescribed for fighting Lyme bacteria.

The diagnosis could be correct. Then again, … .

Source: New England Center for Investigative Reporting, “Study finds cancer diagnoses delayed because of chronic Lyme misdiagnosis,” Beth Daley, Nov. 3, 2014

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