Lyme Disease

Must Know Lyme Disease Information – You Might Be Surprised To Find Out…

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Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migans.  Though not associated with aging characteristically, the side effects of contracting can aggravate a number of problems we typically face as mature adults.

If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.  Lime disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g. rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.

 

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Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods.  Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

Steps to prevent Lyme Disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat.  The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick borne diseases as well.

Preventing Tick Bites

While it is a good idea to take preventative measures against tick year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Avoid Contact with Ticks

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.

Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin

  • Use repellents that contain 20% or more DEET (N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on the exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours.  Always follow product instructions.  Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing.  Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents.  It maintains protective through several washings.  Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.’

How To Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body

  • Bathe, or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas.  Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets.  Ticks can ride home on clothing and pets, the attah to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and day packs.  Tumble clothes in dryer on a high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

Signs and Symptoms That You Have Contracted Lyme Disease

If you had a tick bite, live in an area known for Lyme Disease or have recently traveled to an area where it occurs, and observe any of these symptoms, you should seek medical treatment.

Early localized stage (3-30 days post-tick bite)

  • Red, expanding rash called erythema migrans (EM)
  • Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes

Some people may get these general symptoms in addition to an EM rash, but others, these generals symptoms may be the only evidence of infection.

Some people get a small bump or redness at the site of a tick bite that goes away in 1-2 days, like a mosquito bite.  This is not a sign that yo have Lyme disease.

However, ticks can spread other organisms that may cause a different type of rash.  For example, Southern Tick associated Rash Illness causes a rash with a very similar appearance.

Erythema migrans (EM) or “bulls-eye” rash

  • Rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3-30 days (average is about 7 days).
  • Rash gradually expands over a period of several days, and can reach up to 12 inches (30cm) across.  Parts of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a “bulls-eye” appearance.
  • EM lesions may appear on any area of the body.

Early Disseminated Stage (days to weeks post-tick bite)

Untreated, the infection may spread from the site of the bite to other parts of the body, producing an array of specific symptoms that come and go, including:

  • Additional EM lesions in other areas of the body
  • Facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face)
  • Pain and selling in the large joints (such as knees)
  • Shooting pains that may interfere ith sleep
  • Heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat

Many of these symptoms will resolve over a period of weeks to months, even without treatment.  However, lack of treatment can result in additional complications, described below.

Bell’s (facial) Palsy

Loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face is called facial or “Bell’s” palsy.

Late Disseminated Stage (months-to years post-tick bite)

Approximately 60% of patients with untreated infection may begin to have intermittent bouts of arthritis, with severe joint pain and swelling.  Large joints are often most affected, particularly the knees.  Arthritis caused by Lyme disease manifests differently than other causes of arthritis and must be distinguished from arthralgias (pain, but not swelling, in joints).

Up to 5% of untreated patients develop chronic neurological complaints months to years after infection.  These include shooting pains, numbness, tingling in the hands or feet, and problems with short-term memory.

Arthritis

Pain and swelling in the joints (such as knees) can occur.

Lingering Symptoms After Treatment
(Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome)

Approximately 10-20 % of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that last months to years after treatment with antibiotics.  These symptoms can include muscle and joint pains, cognitive deficits, sleep disturbance, or fatigue.  The cause of the symptoms is not known, but there is no evidence that these symptoms are due to ongoing infection with B. burgdoferi.

This condition is referred to as Post Treatment Lyme disease syndrome.  There is some evidence that Post Treatment Lyme Disease is caused by an autoimmune response, in which a person’s immune system continues to respond, doing damage to the body’s tissues, even after the infection has been cleared.  Studies have shown that continuing antibiotoc therapy is not helpful and can be harmful.

 Tick Removal

If you find a tick attached to your skin, there is no need to panic.  There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady even pressure.  Don’t twist or jerk the tick, this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.  If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area, and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
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