Lyme Disease: Everything you need to know!
Published 4 Nov 2022 • By Rahul Roy
Lyme Disease is one ‘bullseye’ you want to avoid. This bacterial infection starts slowly but has the potential to wreak havoc if not taken appropriately care of.
But what is this disease? How does it occur and spread? And what measures can be taken to properly treat and avoid future infections?
We discover in this article!
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. The bacteria in question is called ‘borrelia burgdorferi’ and spreads through the saliva of the ‘infected’ tick. Notice the emphasis on infected because there are ticks whose bites can be harmless as well. The ticks get infected when they feed on infected deer, mice or even birds.
If left unresolved for a very long period of time say 6 months, it can evolve into chronic Lyme disease or as it is commonly called in the medical community Post treatment Lyme disease syndrome. It is here where the symptoms of the disease are more severe and immediate treatment is required.
Once in the system of a person, the bacteria travels through the bloodstream and affects various parts of the body. It starts off by affecting the skin but if left untreated it could spread to the joints, the heart and even the nervous system as well, triggering inflammatory problems.
Lyme disease gets its name because it was first recognized in the town of Old Lyme in Connecticut in the year 1975 and the name has stuck since then. It is estimated that approximately 300,000 people in the United States get Lyme’s disease every year as per the CDC and due to its symptoms being easily confused for other diseases that number may be higher.
It is interesting to note that it cannot be spread from one human to another. The bacteria from the tick isn’t transmitted immediately and generally requires the ticks to be attached to the subject for a good 36-48 hours. Therefore, a thorough body inspection and cleaning on a regular daily basis is a reliable preventative measure (or basically take a bath every day). However, the trouble lies in spotting these small critters as they are often hard to find due to their diminutive size.
These ticks can usually be found in humid and temperate regions such as wooded areas, but they can also be found in lawns and gardens as well. These ticks are capable of transmitting other tickborne diseases too.
So what symptoms point to the infection of Lyme disease?
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms do not show up immediately and may take a few days ranging from 3 to 30 days after the bite. Depending on the stage of the infection, it could vary in size and color.
It is characterized by the appearance of a bullseye’s rash (also known as erythema migrans). It appears in most cases of Lyme’s disease, and it can be very itchy and very red. The edges of the infection might feel raised, and it could get bigger over the next few days or weeks. This infection could also spread to other parts of the body. Common places for the appearances of the rash are the armpits, the groin, the thighs and the trunk.
The other early symptoms include the feeling of fatigue and tiredness, which are often misdiagnosed for another disease. The person may experience some chills and have feverish episodes that can be easily confused for another disease. Headaches are quite common as well as pain associated to the muscles and joints. These symptoms are quite reminiscent of a flu which explains why it can be so easily misinterpreted. There have also been cases of swollen lymph nodes and in rare instances arthritis.
Based on symptoms and exposure to ticks, a person will be asked to run a blood test by a doctor. Since this disease generally takes a few days to fully materialize, the test may show up to be negative because of the late arrival of the antibodies. The doctors may run further tests which include Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), western blot and polylerase chain reaction (PCR). The diagnosis can be further complicated if the patient has a history of arthritis or other illnesses.
The most commonly prescribed medication for Lyme’s Disease is antibiotics. They are generally administered through the mouth and early detection and administration usually leads to a recovery, albeit not immediately. If symptoms still persist or recur, longer courses of antibodies may be applicable.
It is advisable to eat nutrient dense food and drink copious amounts of water if struck by the disease. Rest is crucial and anti-inflammatory medication has been found to reduce pain.
In the case of severe cases, antibiotic injections may be given too. Antibiotics can bring about its own set of side effects, such as increased skin sensitivity to light so that is something to be taken into consideration as well.
There is more research and scientific discovery needed to find the best treatment for Lyme’s disease, but at the moment there doesn’t exist a treatment that is specifically geared towards the disease.
It’s a good thing that Lyme’s disease is rarely life threatening then.
So, it is great to practice some key precautionary tips to prevent the reception and spread of the disease-
- Avoid wooded areas with a lot of forest cover and with high grass and shrubbery.
- Step outside wearing long sleeves and long pants, especially when venturing out for trekking or walking by nature trails.
- Use insect repellent in applicable scenarios but be wary of using it around children.
- Stay on clear paths as often as possible.
- Wear light colored clothing so that ticks are more easily visible and can be brushed off.
- Take a shower after spending time outdoors and make sure to thoroughly check in sensitive regions such as groin, armpits, and skin folds.
- Be vigilant and check pets and children.
- Create a tick-unfriendly yard by reducing the underbrush, clearing the wooded areas and keeping it light and open.
- If a tick is found on a person, it is recommended to remove it with a tweezer and dispose off of it by flushing it down a toilet or wrapping it in a sealed bag and throwing it into the garbage.
Thankfully, the disease is not serious enough to warrant an immediate cure although researchers have been working hard to find the right remedy. With an early checkup it is possible to counteract its effects relatively early. Practicing sufficient preventative measures never hurts and it is always better to find a tick in the nick of time before you find yourself sick with Lyme.
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Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention (webmd.com)
Preventing Tick Bites on People | Lyme Disease | (CDC.com)
Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention (healthline.com)
Lyme disease - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease - (www.consumerreports.com)
Lyme Disease: What you need to know (livingstonnj.org)
Here’s everything you need to know about Lyme disease. - News @ Northeastern - News @ Northeastern (news.northeastern.edu)
What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease | (discovermagazine)
Lyme disease symptoms & treatments - Illnesses & conditions | (nhsinform.scot)
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