Health

An Overview On Lyme Disease. 

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called Borrelia. These bacteria are carried by some ticks, which are small insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans. When a tick bites a person, it can transmit the bacteria into the person’s bloodstream. If the infection is not treated early, it can cause serious problems in the joints, heart, and nervous system.

What Causes Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected tick. Not all ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The ticks that are most likely to transmit the disease are the blacklegged ticks (also known as deer hiii ticks) and the western blacklegged ticks. 

These ticks are found in many parts of the United States, especially in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest regions. They are also common in some parts of Canada and Europe.

Risk Factors For Lyme Disease.

  • How common the infected ticks are in the area.
  • How long the tick was attached to the person’s skin.
  • How quickly the person removed the tick.
  • How well the person cleaned the bite area.

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The symptoms usually appear in stages, but not always. Some people may not have any symptoms at all, or they may have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.

Symptoms of the first stage of Lyme disease:

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

The symptoms of the second stage of Lyme disease:

  • Multiple rashes on the skin.
  • Facial paralysis or weakness (also known as Bell’s palsy).
  • Irregular heartbeat or chest pain.
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord).
  • Nerve pain or numbness in the arms or legs.
  • Eye inflammation or vision problems.

The symptoms of the third stage of Lyme disease:

  • Arthritis (inflammation of the joints), especially in the knees.
  • Brain disorders, such as memory loss, mood changes, or difficulty concentrating.
  • Skin problems, such as discoloration, swelling, or thinning of the skin.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Stages of the Lyme Disease. 

Stage 1 – Early Localized Disease: 

This stage occurs within 3 to 30 days after the tick bite. The main symptom is a rash that looks like a red circle with a clear center. This rash is called erythema migrans or EM. It often expands from the site of the tick bite and can reach up to 12 inches in diameter. It is usually not painful or itchy, but it may feel warm to the touch. Some people may have more than one rash on different parts of the body. Other symptoms of this stage may include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.

Stage 2 – Early Disseminated Disease: 

This stage occurs within 3 to 10 weeks after the tick bite. This stage means that the bacteria has spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. The symptoms of this stage include multiple rashes on the skin, facial paralysis or weakness (also known as Bell’s palsy), irregular heartbeat or chest pain, meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord), nerve pain or numbness in the arms or legs, and eye inflammation or vision problems.

Stage 3 – Late Disseminated Disease: 

This stage occurs months or years after the tick bite. This stage means that the bacteria have caused chronic or long-term damage to the body. The symptoms of this stage may include arthritis (inflammation of the joints), especially in the knees, brain disorders, such as memory loss, mood changes, or difficulty concentrating, and skin problems, such as discoloration, swelling, or thinning of the skin.

How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on the person’s symptoms, medical history, and exposure to ticks. The doctor may also perform a physical examination and look for signs of a rash or other abnormalities. The doctor may also order some blood tests to check for the presence of antibodies against the bacteria that causes it. But then, these tests are not always accurate or reliable, especially in the early stages of the infection. So, the diagnosis of Lyme disease should not rely solely on the results of the blood tests.

How is Lyme Disease Treated?

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, which are medicines that kill bacteria. The type, dose, and duration of the antibiotics depend on the stage and severity of the infection. The doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics (pills or capsules) or intravenous antibiotics (injected into a vein). 

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Lyme Disease?

Most people with Lyme disease recover completely after a few weeks of antibiotic treatment. But some people may have persistent or recurring symptoms, even after completing the treatment. This condition is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) or chronic Lyme disease. 

The cause and treatment of PTLDS are not well understood. Some experts believe that PTLDS is due to residual damage to the tissues or the immune system. Others believe that PTLDS is due to a persistent infection that is not cleared by the antibiotics. There is no proven cure for PTLDS, but some people may benefit from supportive therapies, such as pain management, physical therapy, or counseling.

How Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent it is to avoid getting bitten by ticks. But these will help you as well:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes when outdoors, especially in wooded, grassy, or brushy areas.
  • Tucking the pants into the socks and the shirt into the pants to prevent ticks from crawling under the clothing.
  • Applying insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin to the skin and clothing, following the instructions on the label.
  • Checking the body, clothing, and pets for ticks after spending time outdoors, and removing any ticks as soon as possible,
  • Showering or bathing within two hours of coming indoors, and washing and drying the clothing at high temperature.
  • Avoiding areas where ticks are known to be abundant or infected.

What Do I Do If I Find A Tick On My Skin?

If a tick is found attached to the skin, it MUST be removed carefully and fast. Use the following steps:

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull the tick upward with steady and even pressure, without twisting or jerking.
  • Clean the bite area and the tweezers with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or iodine.
  • Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet, wrapping it in tape, or placing it in a sealed bag or container.
  • Do not use nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to remove the tick. This can cause the tick to release more saliva or bacteria into the skin.
  • Do not crush or squeeze the tick with your fingers, as this can also increase the risk of infection on your skin.

The Key Takeaway.

If you develop a rash, fever, or other symptoms within a few weeks of a tick bite, you should see your doctor as soon as possible and mention the tick bite. Early diagnosis and treatment will prevent further complications of Lyme disease.

FAQs On Lyme Disease.

Can Lyme disease be transmitted sexually?

No, it cannot be spread through sexual contact. It can only be transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. 

Can Lyme disease be transmitted through breast milk?

No, it cannot be passed from mother to child through breast milk. But, pregnant women who have Lyme disease should get treated as soon as possible to prevent complications for themselves and their babies. 

Can Lyme disease be transmitted during a blood transfusion?

No, you cannot get Lyme disease from a blood transfusion. The bacteria that causes it does not survive in blood products and are also not screened for by blood banks.

Is it true that you can get Lyme disease anywhere in the U.S.?

No! It’s not evenly distributed across the U.S. The majority of Lyme disease cases are reported from 14 states in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest regions. But Lyme disease can also occur in other parts of the country where the ticks that carry the bacteria are found. 

I live in the southeastern U.S. and get a lot of lone star tick bites. I've heard that I can get “southern Lyme disease”. Is this true?

No, there is no such thing as “southern Lyme disease”. The lone star tick does not transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. But, it can transmit other diseases, such as ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness). STARI can cause a rash similar to the one seen in Lyme disease, but it is not caused by the same bacteria and does not have the same complications. 

Can the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, avoid the host’s immune system?

Yes, the bacteria that causes it has several strategies to avoid the host’s immune system. For example, they can change their surface proteins to avoid recognition by antibodies, hide inside cells or tissues where they are less exposed to immune attack, and suppress or manipulate the immune response to their advantage. 

What is "chronic Lyme disease"?

Chronic Lyme disease is a term used by some people to describe persistent symptoms that they attribute to Lyme disease, such as fatigue, pain, cognitive impairment, or mood disorders. This term is not accepted by most medical professionals, as there is no clear definition, diagnosis, or treatment for it. 

Most experts prefer to use the term post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) to describe a subset of patients who have objective evidence of previous Lyme disease infection and continue to have symptoms for more than six months after antibiotic therapy.

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