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Research looks at post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome

Some people in New York might have been frustrated when seeking a diagnosis for post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. This has been a controversial condition because while some patients report symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches and cognitive fogginess months or years after treatment for Lyme disease, doctors have been unable to find indications of anything wrong in tests. As a result, many people believe that the condition does not exist.

A study at John Hopkins University looked at people who said they suffered from chronic Lyme disease along with a healthy control group. Researchers found that extensive testing, including blood marker and neurological exams, showed no difference between the healthy patients and the individuals who complained of symptoms. However, researchers reported that the symptoms appeared to be genuine.

Researchers are proposing that in the absence of a diagnostic exam to identify PTLDS, doctors will have to rely on patient self-reporting. Other symptoms patients described included numbness, headaches and lower back and neck pain. Researchers say that doctors could better identify PTLDS if patients report these types of symptoms. A documented history of a person having Lyme disease could also help prevent a misdiagnosis.

There are a number of conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, that may be difficult for doctors to diagnose. Since there are no definitive tests to detect these diseases, they often must be diagnosed by the process of elimination. One difference between a delayed diagnosis in these cases and an incidence of medical malpractice is whether the doctor was negligent. If a patient does not receive a reasonable standard of care, the doctor might be guilty of medical malpractice. An example of negligence might be if a patient reported MS-like symptoms to a doctor, and the physician simply dismissed the person after running one or two initial tests instead of pursuing a more complex process of diagnosis.