What is Lyme disease?
You have probably heard or read in the news about celebrities that suffer, or have suffered from Lyme disease. This infection has been reported in almost all the states of this country, although most of the cases are based on the northeast coast, in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and in northern California. It is also found in Asia, Europe, and South America.
Lyme disease was discovered 40 years ago and is caused by bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi), which is transmitted by a tick bite. This tick is not the common tick found in dogs. Instead, it found in deer, field mice, squirrels, raccoons, foxes and other types of wild animals. Based on these factors, this disease is common in suburban areas. The number of cases and infected sites has increased over time, perhaps due to the growth in suburban areas.
But… what can we learn about Lyme disease?
The infection is caused by a tick bite on the skin.
The rash as a result of the bite is called, “erythema migrans” and in most cases, starts with a reddish patch that expands over time. It might be circular, triangular or oval. It can start small or become completely invasive. Sometimes, it can have a clear center with red edges. In general, the rash starts at the origin of the tick bite, but once it turns into an infection, the disease spreads over the body.
What are the symptoms?
At first, the symptoms are similar to the flu and includes fever, muscle aches, swollen glands, chills, fatigue, and joint pain.
When Lyme disease starts to progress, it is no longer treatable with antibiotics. 60% of patients develop momentary arthritis, usually in the knees. Between 10% to 20% of untreated patients will develop long-lasting arthritis.
This disease can also affect the nervous system when the infection is left for a long time without proper treatment. Symptoms include meningitis, temporary facial paralysis, numbness, lack of coordination, and/or weakness in the extremities. In milder cases, some symptoms may be a lack of memory, loss of concentration or changes in sleeping habits, for example. These symptoms usually last for weeks or months, and can reoccur.
Other less frequent complications (1 of every 10 patients) have coronary problems. Symptoms such as slow or irregular heart rhythm, which typically, only lasts for a few days or weeks.
Lyme disease mimics a variety of other diseases, which makes it difficult to diagnose. And the severity can vary from person to person. If you have a bite as described previously, please see a doctor as soon as possible!
Sometimes, this disease can be difficult to detect. Why? Because the bite does not hurt and tends to be very small. The best way to detect this disease is with the appearance of the classic “bulls-eye rash (red edges with a clear center). If your doctor has any doubts or wishes to confirm their findings, you may choose to run a few lab tests. This can include, for example, a blood test to observe the antibodies fighting these bacteria. You can also request supplementary analysis depending on your symptoms.
Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics in its early stages. And, like any other disease, the sooner you start to treat it, the quicker your complete recovery will be! It should be noted that some patients experience pain or muscle fatigue after the treatment. Especially if treatment was delayed!
If you are strolling along wooded areas, you can prevent tick bites by using light clothing and keeping your body well covered. Stay on the trails and away from dense bushes! Use tick repellents, especially on your clothes (repellents may be harmful if used too much, and can seriously affect babies and children). If you have been in an area with ticks, bathe and wash your clothes immediately. Check your family (even pets) for bites or any trace of ticks.
If a tick bites you, try the following:
-Remove it with tweezers but don’t touch it with your hand! And do not kill it with your fingers or the tweezers.
-Clean the area of the bite with antiseptic.
-Do not use anything on your skin unless prescribed by your doctor. Visit your doctor as soon as possible to stop the disease in time!
I hope that these details are useful to keep you well informed. Good luck!