What is Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infection that affects many parts of the body, including the skin, joints, and nervous system. It is a bacterial infection that starts from the bite of an infected tick.
The infection can spread, and some of the symptoms are similar to the flu. If Lyme disease is not treated, it may cause joint pain, swelling, numbness, problems thinking, fatigue, muscle weakness, and other problems.
6 Interesting Facts of Lyme Disease
1. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease, with peak onset in spring and summer months.
2. Erythema chronicum migrans (ECM) is the diagnostic skin lesion occurring at the site of the tick bite.
3. Disseminated infection can affect the nervous system, heart, and joints.
4. Diagnosis is confirmed by a positive screening enzyme immunoassay (EIA)/immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and immunoglobulin (Ig) G Western blot for Borrelia burgdorferi in the serum of a patient with appropriate clinical findings.
5. Oral antibiotics are effective for prevention of late disease manifestations and early disease (ECM), but intravenous antibiotics may be necessary for disseminated disease.
6. Coinfection with Babesia or Anaplasma should be considered in any patient with hemolysis, neutropenia, and/or thrombocytopenia.
What are the causes?
This condition is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.
You can get Lyme disease by being bitten by an infected tick. The tick must be attached to your skin to pass along the infection. Deer often carry infected ticks.
What increases the risk of Lyme Disease?
The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:
- Living in or visiting these areas in the U.S.:
- New England.
- The mid-Atlantic states.
- The upper Midwest.
- Spending time in wooded or grassy areas.
- Being outdoors with exposed skin.
- Camping, gardening, hiking, fishing, or hunting outdoors.
- Failing to remove a tick from your skin within 3–4 days.
What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?
Symptoms of this condition include:
- A round, red rash that surrounds the center of the tick bite. This is the first sign of infection. The center of the rash may be blood colored or have tiny blisters.
- Chills and fever.
- General achiness.
- Joint pain, often in the knees.
- Muscle pain.
- Swollen lymph glands.
- Stiff neck.
How is Lyme Disease diagnosed?
This condition is diagnosed based on:
- Your symptoms and medical history.
- A physical exam.
- A blood test.
How is Lyme Disease treated?
The main treatment for this condition is antibiotic medicine, which is usually taken by mouth (orally). The length of treatment depends on how soon after a tick bite you begin taking the medicine. In some cases, treatment is necessary for several weeks. If the infection is severe, antibiotics may need to be given through an IV tube that is inserted into one of your veins.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Take your antibiotic medicine as told by your health care provider. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
- Ask your health care provider about taking a probiotic in between doses of your antibiotic to help avoid stomach upset or diarrhea.
- Check with your health care provider before supplementing your treatment. Many alternative therapies have not been proven and may be harmful to you.
- Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.
How is Lyme Disease prevented?
You can become reinfected if you get another tick bite from an infected tick. Take these steps to help prevent an infection:
- Cover your skin with light-colored clothing when you are outdoors in the spring and summer months.
- Spray clothing and skin with bug spray. The spray should be 20–30% DEET.
- Avoid wooded, grassy, and shaded areas.
- Remove yard litter, brush, trash, and plants that attract deer and rodents.
- Check yourself for ticks when you come indoors.
- Wash clothing worn each day.
- Check your pets for ticks before they come inside.
- If you find a tick:
- Remove it with tweezers.
- Clean your hands and the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Pregnant women should take special care to avoid tick bites because the infection can be passed along to the fetus.
Contact a health care provider if:
- You have symptoms after treatment.
- You have removed a tick and want to bring it to your health care provider for testing.
Get help right away if:
- You have an irregular heartbeat.
- You have nerve pain.
- Your face feels numb.