What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the borrelia bacteria. Typically, a tick harboring the Lyme disease bacteria will bite a human and transmit the illness. The majority of the United States is home to ticks that can transmit the bacterium borrelia. However, the northeastern and mid-Atlantic areas, as well as the upper Midwest are where Lyme disease is most prevalent. Additionally, Lyme disease occurrences are common in south-central and southeastern Canada, Europe, and Europe.
A tick bite can resemble a tiny, uncomfortable lump on your skin, similar to a mosquito bite. This does not necessarily mean that you have an illness transmitted by ticks. Many people won't be aware that they've been bitten by a tick. The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are diverse. They typically emerge in phases. Additionally, not everyone exhibits the typical early-stage symptoms.
Typically, the first signs of Lyme illness appear 3 to 30 days following a tick bite. There aren't many symptoms present at this stage of the disease. A rash is a normal Lyme disease symptom. However, it doesn't always occur. The rash often begins as a single circle and slowly spreads from the tick bite site. The center could grow distinctively and resemble a target or bull's-eye. Although the rash frequently feels warm to the touch, it normally isn't uncomfortable or unpleasant.
Other stage 1 symptoms include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Joint stiffness
- Muscle aches and pains
- Swollen lymph nodes
The Lyme illness might worsen if left untreated. Within 3 to 10 weeks of a tick bite, the symptoms frequently manifest. Stage 2 is frequently more severe and pervasive. This stage is referred to as “early disseminated disease.”
Stage 2 symptoms could also include those from stage 1 in addition to the following:
- Many rashes on various body areas
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Weakness in the facial muscles on one or both sides
- Irregular heartbeats are brought on by immune system activation in the heart's tissue
- Leg pain that originates in the back and hips and spreads
- Hands or feet suffering from pain, numbness, or weakness
- Edema that hurts in the eye or eyelid tissues
- Immune system activation that results in discomfort or visual loss in the ocular nerves
You might experience additional symptoms in the third stage along with previous stage symptoms. “Late-disseminated disease” is the term for this stage. The most prevalent condition of this stage in the US is arthritis in big joints, especially the knees. Long-lasting discomfort, edema, or stiffness is possible. The signs could also come and go. Symptoms of stage 3 typically appear 2 to 12 months after a tick bite. Acrodermatitis chronic atrophicans is a skin ailment that can be brought on by the kind of Lyme disease that is prevalent in Europe. The tops of the feet and the backs of the hands develop discolored, swollen skin. The elbows and knees may also be affected. Joints or tissues may be harmed in more severe situations. After a tick bite, this skin condition may appear months or even years later.
Borrelia bacteria are the culprit behind Lyme illness. The black-legged tick, often known as the deer tick, is the principal carrier of the bacterium in North America. A separate borrelia species causes Lyme disease in Europe. These bacteria are carried by ticks. Castor bean ticks, sheep ticks, and deer ticks are a few names for these bugs.
Ticks cling to a host's skin and feed on blood. The tick continues to feed until it has grown significantly in size. Deer ticks can consume blood from a host for several days.
Ticks get bacteria from their hosts, such as rodents or deer. They stay healthy. They can, however, transfer the bacteria to another host. The bacteria can spread to a person's bloodstream when an infected tick feeds on them. If the tick is removed within 24 hours, the risk of the germs spreading Lyme disease is reduced. Ticks of all ages can transmit the disease. Tiny and elusive young ticks are common. If a baby tick bites you, you might not even realize it.
If you spend time in an area where they are likely to reside, your risk of contracting Lyme disease increases. This comprises the:
- Region: Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks are common. The upper Midwest, northeastern, and mid-Atlantic states, as well as south central and southeast Canada, are where you can find them most frequently. There are castor bean ticks all over Europe.
- Habitat: Ticks are found in grassy, shrubby, or forested regions.
- Time of year: Infection risk is highest in the spring, summer, and fall. Ticks, however, can be active whenever it is above freezing.
Some Lyme disease patients claim that their symptoms persisted even after receiving therapy. These persistent signs could consist of:
- Lyme disease-related arthritis that doesn't get better.
- Body aches and pains.
- Fatigue that is perpetual or regular.
- Memory complaints.
These circumstances aren't entirely understood. PTLDS, also known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, may be the diagnosis for some persons exhibiting these symptoms. These persistent issues could be brought on by:
- Incomplete treatment.
- Lyme disease reinfection
- Immune system reaction to dead bacterium pieces.
- Autoimmunity - immune system activity that damages healthy tissues.
- Illnesses other than Lyme disease for which a diagnosis has not been made.
Avoiding tick bites when you are outside is the greatest approach to protect yourself from Lyme disease. When you stroll or work in grassy, wooded, or overgrown regions, the majority of ticks will attach themselves to your lower legs and feet. A tick will frequently crawl upward after attaching to your body to locate a place to burrow into your skin.
Follow these recommendations to protect yourself if you're in or intend to be in an area where ticks are likely to exist.
Use tick repellents
- Spray a repellent with 0.5% permethrin on your outdoor clothing, footwear, tent, and other camping equipment. Permethrin may have been used to pre-treat some equipment and clothing.
- On any exposed skin, excluding your face, use an insect repellent that has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), and 2-undecanone are a few examples of these repellents.
- Never use OLE or PMD-containing products on children.
Dress for protection
- Wear light-colored clothing to make it simpler for you to spot ticks and for others to do the same.
- Do not wear sandals or shoes with open toes.
- Wear long sleeve shirts with your pants tucked in.
- Dress in long pants with your socks tucked in.
Check for ticks
- To remove any loose ticks, take a shower as soon as you can. Look around for any ticks that could have burrowed.
- To thoroughly examine your body, use a mirror. Pay close attention to your hairline, hair, and underarms. Additionally, look inside your belly button, behind your knees, between your legs, your ears, your waist and between fingers and toes.
- Check your equipment. To kill ticks, dry your outdoor clothing on high for at least 10 minutes before washing it.
- Check any pet that spends time outdoors every day for ticks.
- In grassy and wooded areas, stay as much as you can on clear paths.
The rash can be enough to diagnose Lyme disease if you reside in a region where it is widespread. Typically, a diagnosis is based on the following:
- An evaluation of all symptoms and signs.
- A background of tick exposure, either known or suspected.
- Finding disease-fighting antibodies to the microorganism through blood tests.
The disease Lyme is treated with antibiotics. The sooner therapy begins, the quicker and more thorough the recovery will be in most circumstances.
An antibiotic taken as a tablet is the typical course of treatment for Lyme disease. A typical course of treatment lasts 10 to 14 days. Depending on your symptoms, the course of treatment can be longer. Even if you feel better, it's still crucial to take all of your medications as prescribed.
An antibiotic known as an intravenous (IV) antibiotic, which is administered straight into a vein, may be prescribed by your healthcare provider. For more severe illness, an IV antibiotic may be prescribed, especially if you exhibit signs of:
- Long-lasting arthritis.
- Disease affecting the nervous system.
- Disease affecting the heart.
Preventive use of antibiotics
As a prophylactic measure, or antibiotic prescription, your doctor may only do so if all three of the following occur:
- It is well known that the biting tick is a deer tick.
- You reside in or have recently been to a region where Lyme disease is prevalent.
- The tick was firmly fastened to the skin for at least 36 hours.
The only proven treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. Other therapies either haven't been tried or haven't been proven effective.
Illness after Lyme disease
"Chronic Lyme disease" is a term that you may be familiar with. Some people use the word to describe persistent symptoms they believe may be related to a prior Lyme disease illness. But the definition of such a phrase is vague. According to research, there is no connection between these symptoms and an ongoing borrelia-related illness. Additionally, studies demonstrate that continuing use of antibiotics does not make these symptoms better.
Speak with your provider if you experience above-listed symptoms or persistent health issues following Lyme disease. There are numerous probable causes of symptoms. Your healthcare professional can assist you in determining the origin of your symptoms and selecting the best course of action.