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Lyme Disease Often Diagnosed Later Among Black Patients

Differences in the recognition of the manifestations of Lyme disease by physicians or by patients may contribute to later diagnosis

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THURSDAY, Oct. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Black patients with Lyme disease are often diagnosed later than White patients, according to a study published online Sept. 30 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Dan P. Ly, M.D., Ph.D., from University of California Los Angeles, used 2015 to 2016 claims data to draw a random nationwide 20 percent sample of traditional Medicare beneficiaries to examine racial differences in the distribution of clinical manifestations of Lyme disease.

Ly identified 6,171 White Medicare patients and 167 Black Medicare patients newly diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2016. Neurologic manifestations of Lyme disease on initial diagnosis were seen in about 9 percent of White patients and 34 percent of Black patients. There was a significant difference in the distribution of clinical manifestations between Black and White patients. There was a 20.7 percentage point difference for having disseminated disease for Black versus White patients. For being initially diagnosed outside of the May to August window, the difference was 12.5 percentage points. The majority of both White and Black patients with newly diagnosed Lyme disease had a clinician visit in 2016 prior to Lyme disease diagnosis (89 percent and 88 percent, respectively).

"These differences may reflect differential recognition of dermatologic manifestations of Lyme disease by physicians or by patients themselves," Ly writes.

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