Proper diagnosis of tick-borne disease can cost in pain as well as payment
Greg Shogan of Monroeville estimated he underwent 20 brain scans to try and diagnose a series of strange ailments, which ultimately resulted in a diagnosis of Lyme disease.
While early detection can generally result in positive treatment, Shogan had gone years without meaningful medical intervention. Shogan isn’t sure how much it cost, in total, for the appointments and testing that eventually led to his diagnosis.
“It was definitely dozens of doctors, hundreds of tests and thousands of dollars,” he said.
According to a new survey of patients suffering from tick-borne illness, it’s possible that it was in excess of $10,000.
Testing lab IGeneX analyzed about 200 cases from 2018 and 2019, seeking to determine how long it took for patients to obtain a proper diagnosis, how many doctors they’d visited and how much it cost them.
Nearly 36 percent of patients spent more than $10,000 on tests, treatments, appointments and other associated costs, according to the survey.
Last year, Pennsylvania had 10,208 cases of Lyme disease reported, according to the state health department. Even using the survey’s mid-range point of $5,000 spent on ineffective testing, that would mean Pennsylvania residents potentially spent more than $51 million trying to obtain a diagnosis.
“When a tick-borne illness is misdiagnosed, the disease-causing infection has more time to spread, which can lead to more severe or chronic health issues,” said Dr. Jyotsna Shah, president at IGeneX. “That can lead to months and even years of escalating costs for patients and their families due to ongoing doctor visits, diagnostic tests, ineffective medications, and other medical expenses.”
For Shogan, it led to bouts with cat-scratch disease, facial numbness, a year-long case of dizziness and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.
For participants in the survey, difficulty diagnosing an illness came with host of side effects outside of the physical realm, including:
• 65% of patients were forced to quit a job or cut back their house due to symptoms.
• 24% of patients saw more than 10 doctors before receiving a proper diagnosis.
• 86% of patients suffer from long-term side effects due to not having been diagnosed sooner.
Researchers hope the survey will help educate the public on the risks associated with delaying testing or relying on old testing techniques.
“In our view, many patients are missed because much of the testing recommended by general practitioners is based on technology from 25 years ago,” said Dr. Shah. “Science has progressed, and we can now give patients a much more accurate diagnosis than was available years ago.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .