Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) that is transmitted to humans via the bite of a deer tick. According to the Mayo Clinic, the disease causes symptoms such as a rash, fever, chills, body aches, joint swelling, weakness and temporary paralysis. Physicians who treat this disease in their practice include internists and family practice physicians. In addition, infectious disease or rheumatology physicians may also be involved in the treatment.
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Internists/Family Practice Physicians
Internists and family practice physicians are the gate keepers, or caregivers who see cases of Lyme disease first. Diagnosis is based on clinical suspicion and is confirmed by two-tiered serologic testing (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay as a screening test, followed by Western blot as confirmation).
Infectious Disease Physicians
Sometimes patients are initially misdiagnosed as having a rash due to a spider bite, for example. If Lyme disease is allowed to progress without antibiotic treatment, patients may progress to Lyme arthritis; sometimes the pain is so severe or unrelenting that patients seek support groups.
Usually, infectious diseases physicians get involved when the diagnosis of Lyme disease has not been made or confirmed by serologic testing. For example, Dr. Raymond Dattwyler, affiliated with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is a disease identification expert who often diagnoses Lyme patients after they have initially been misdiagnosed.
Dr. Steere, a rheumatologist--a physician who deals with diseases and disorders of the bones, joints and muscles--was the first doctor who identified the cause of Lyme disease. Dr. Steere is a professor at Harvard Medical School and has written hundreds of articles on Lyme Disease. He is also an invited speaker at national and international meetings. Dr. Steere is conducting research on diagnostic assays for Lyme disease, as well as antibiotic refractory cases of Lyme arthritis.