When people hear of Lyme Arthritis, what’s usually meant is Late Stage Lyme Disease. Here, the arthritis occurs months to years after becoming infected; sometimes the patient recalls symptoms from earlier stages, sometimes not. Usually the knee is affected, maybe a couple of other large joints too. Without treatment, the arthritis usually gets better in maybe several years; with treatment, it usually resolves in some months.
A negative test for Lyme Disease IgG antibody rules out the diagnosis. But otherwise, diagnosis of Late Lyme Arthritis is difficult, because no test can prove it. Many people who live in Lyme Disease areas test positive without any illness. Joint fluid examination isn’t helpful.
In earlier stages of Lyme Disease, weeks to months after initial infection, a person may have lots of achy joints, including the hands. The joint pains may come and go, move around, seem to settle in on one joint, get better & then return. Sometimes there’s swelling, usually not. Here, treatment helps a lot quicker. Diagnosis can be made confidently if the Lyme Disease IgM Antibody is positive and the IgG Antibody is negative. If both are positive, clinician’s have to consider the time frames of risk factors and symptoms. Results are simply not so helpful if IgM is negative and IgG positive, or both are negative.
See also our main topic, Lyme Disease.