Testing for Tick Disease

Tick Testing
Been bitten by a tick? The best way to know if you are at risk of infection is to test that tick, so make sure you save the tick and send it in!

There is no definitive test for Lyme Disease or for other tick-borne diseases. Doctors diagnose these illnesses by evaluating a combination of signs and symptoms and confirm their suspicions with blood testing. Blood tests, however, can’t say for sure if you need treatment, so make sure you share all your symptoms with your doctor and ask questions—and for second opinions if you aren’t sure.

Certain symptoms do diagnose tick-borne disease, however. The presence of a bulls-eye rash, or Erythema Migrans, is a clear confirmation of tick-borne disease. If you or someone you love develops a bulls-eye rash, treatment is required.

Blood testing for Lyme Disease and other tick diseases can be challenging for doctors and patients. Blood tests performed in the first few days to weeks after an exposure or bite are not reliable and may give a high percentage of false negative results. For this reason, a diagnosis of tick disease is only made by a qualified doctor able to evaluate the clinical signs and symptoms in order to give proper and speedy treatment.

Blood testing can be helpful—and even crucial—in identifying which tick disease is present to guide proper treatment. A single tick bite can transmit multiple infections, so physicians need to identify all possible illnesses. Infections that occur along with Lyme Disease are called co-infections .

Two-Step Blood Test

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend two step testing of blood samples.

  1. ELIA or enzyme immunoassay. If your blood test returns a positive result, your doctor proceeds to step 2.
  2. The Western blot. According to the CDC, a diagnosis for Lyme Disease requires both tests to be positive.