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Darker Skin Tones Slow Detection of Lyme Disease
by Pam Chwedyk Minority Nurse Writer
A recent study finds that African Americans who contract Lyme disease are 10% more likely than Caucasians to exhibit symptoms such as neurological or heart problems, and they are 30% more likely to suffer from arthritis as a result of the disease.
“One of the conclusions from the study is that perhaps African Americans are not recognizing that they have [Lyme disease] as quickly as whites,” says Alan Fix, assistant professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In fact, of patients diagnosed with Lyme disease, whites were nearly six times more likely than African Americans to have detected a bull’s-eye rash, according to the study.
Fix states, “This is a perfectly reasonable explanation, since the darker skin color would hide the bull’s-eye rash—the most telltale sign of the disease.”
Because their skin tone hides this key indicator, African Americans may remain untreated longer and therefore suffer more complications from Lyme disease.
This finding highlights the need for increased health care education on Lyme disease in African-American communities. Fix says, “The health care professionals serving these communities need to be more aware of these issues.”