Some readers may remember a post I wrote in early May of this year [Tick Talk....it's Lyme Tyme], where I described the experiences I have had in dealing with Lyme Disease for almost 40 years. I contracted Lyme Disease (LD) again in late April of this year, for the 6th time, which prompted me to share my experiences and concerns with anyone who is interested. In case you missed it and are interested, you can read about it via this link.
There are two types of ticks that humans are most likely to encounter in Ontario: the tiny Black-legged Tick, a.k.a. Deer Tick, which is believed to be the main, or even only, vector of the spirochete which causes LD, as shown in this first image.
And the American Dog Tick, a.k.a. Wood Tick shown next, which is at least twice the size of the Black-legged Tick:
The Black-legged Tick that hitched a ride on my clothing was one that I missed in spite of my usually vigilant checks for ticks which I do after knowingly hiking in their territory. Not all Black-legged Ticks carry LD, fortunately, as I expect I have been bitten in the past but did not end up getting LD. This time, however, I was not so lucky and its bite on my lower leg resulted in the usual first stage symptoms that are very similar to feeling like one is coming down with the flu (e.g. joint and muscle aches, tiredness, fever). After a few days this bull's-eye rash appeared. A rash resulting from a LD carrying tick is not itchy, but may feel slightly warm, which this one did. All of these are classic characteristics of a recent encounter with a tick passing along LD.
The local health unit representative sent the tick away to the lab that is authorized to test for LD, but she advised me that it would take several weeks to get the results.
A few weeks later, I got a call from this same health unit representative who passed along the results from the lab. Their testing concluded that the tick I submitted did not test positive for LD!!!
In some ways, I wasn't surprised. I have read from people quite knowledgeable about the nuances of LD that the labs in Canada only test for one strain of the spirochete. Unfortunately, there are several strains that can also result in LD that are missed by this overly simplistic testing process, which presumably is what happened in my case.
So the bottom line is that if you suspect you may have contracted LD, at this time it is not enough to only expect the medical establishment to properly diagnose it for you. Learn all you can from sources that are considered reliable and go armed with the information as you seek treatment. It is a lot easier to treat while it is at the first stage and in your blood stream than once it becomes established in organs and systems where it is a lot more difficult. One of the best sources I know of for this information is from the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation .