- What is Lyme Disease?
- Stages of Lyme Disease
- Key Facts
- 10 Lyme Disease Signs and Symptoms That Are a Dead Giveaway
- Is Lyme Disease Contagious?
- How Do You Get Lyme Disease?
- Symptoms of Post Lyme Disease and Long-Term Effects – Should I Be Worried?
- What’s the Right Way to Treat the Ailment?
- Should You Use Alternative Medicine to Treat the Infection?
Lyme disease is among the faster-growing infectious illnesses in the United States.
Almost half a million people get diagnosed with Lyme disease a year.
That’s a 59% jump from 300,000 cases previously recorded.
The problem is, many patients remain undiagnosed for years; they don’t remember being bitten.
Others, or less than 50%, don’t develop a Lyme rash, a telltale sign for spotting the disease.
More severe symptoms develop later, like nerve issues and joint complications.
To stay safe, you need to know how to detect and prevent the disease.
But, most importantly, what it does to the body once the infection gets into the system.
This detailed guideline will show you the ropes.
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What is Lyme Disease?
The Lyme infectious disease is a multisystem illness that impacts the heart, skin, nervous system, and joints.
The tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium is the one that causes it.
You can get the disease when an infected black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) bites you.
Before the bacterium can invade the system, the black-legged tick, sometimes called deer tick or bear tick, must remain attached to the skin for 36 to 48 hours.
Most of us get infected when an immature tick, known as a nymph, bites the skin.
This tick is very tiny, less than 2 mm in size. That’s why a lot of bites remain unnoticed.
Stages of Lyme Disease
This tick-borne illness presents itself in three stages.
Every stage has its own onset and impact. Even the symptoms can emerge across various stages.
These stages include:
- Acute (or early) localized Lyme disease – early Lyme disease can start hours, days, or weeks after a tick bite. The infection hasn’t spread and is easiest to cure.
- Early disseminated Lyme disease – occurs a couple of months or weeks after a tick bite. The bacteria start to spread, aggravating the symptoms.
- Tertiary (or late) disseminated – untreated Lyme disease causes bacteria to spread, increasing cardiac and neurologic symptoms. The symptoms of late Lyme disease can occur even years after a tick bite.
- Ticks have three sizes. They can be as tiny as a grain of sand, poppy, or apple seed.
- Not all ticks infect people with Lyme disease. The tick habitat has a major role to play. In specific areas, only an infected deer tick with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi can cause the disease.
- Early detection makes treatment a lot easier and more effective.
10 Lyme Disease Signs and Symptoms That Are a Dead Giveaway
Everyone’s body reacts differently to the disease. So, the severity and impact of Lyme disease symptoms vary.
In between stages, the symptoms can overlap.
Roughly 70% to 80% of patients with Lyme disease develop a typical “bull’s-eye” Lyme rash known as erythema migrans (EM).
The rash gradually expands over a couple of days, reaching a 12-inch diameter or more.
The area could feel warm to the touch, but itchiness and pain rarely develop.
EM rash often emerges at the site of the bite. However, it could also develop on any spot of the body.
Here is a list of the Lyme disease symptoms a patient should look out for:
- Muscle aches
- Pain in the joints
- Red oval rash
- Trouble sleeping
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Trouble staying focused
What the research says
2012 reports from the Open Neurology Journal show that 84% of those affected experienced fatigue.
Other than fatigue, patients experienced fever, difficulty sleeping, and joint pain.
In the case of chronic Lyme disease, the symptoms are a lot more impactful.
People develop persistent inflammation, roving pain, stiff neck, and numbness.
In the first week of infection, roughly 50% of Lyme disease cases develop symptoms quite like the flu.
If Lyme borreliosis gets to the heart tissue, those affected develop a condition commonly referred to as Lyme carditis.
When bacteria interfere with the heart, the body experiences heart problems such as trouble breathing, palpitations, dizziness, and chest pain.
The infection leads to inflammation, which in turn creates a blockage of electrical signal transmission.
This is what experts call “heart block.”
What most people don’t realize is that Lyme disease can influence the heart muscle as well.
Although just 1% of disease cases lead to heart issues, it is still important to be aware of its potential consequences.
With treatment, you can take care of the inflammation and give your heart its strength back.
But, with early symptom detection, you can eliminate the disease before it affects the heart.
Is Lyme Disease Contagious?
According to the CDC, tickborne diseases are not contagious.
You can’t get Lyme disease by kissing, touching, or having intercourse with an affected individual. The exception is pregnancy.
A pregnant mother can pass the infection to the placenta if she doesn’t receive on-time antibiotic treatment.
The Lyme disease bacterium can get to the fetus. But, this rarely happens.
Luckily, antibiotics can take care of the bacterium.
Also, the bacterium can live in stored blood.
So, people who recently got treated for Lyme disease should avoid donating blood for some time.
How Do You Get Lyme Disease?
For the infection to get inside your system, an infected tick must bite your skin.
The deer tick is responsible for transmitting tick-borne disease.
Nymphs or small ticks feed in summer and spring. An adult deer tick is most active when it’s cold outside.
There was a vaccine for Lyme. However, it quickly got discontinued due to a lack of demand.
Since the vaccine’s protection reduces with time, it is challenging to control immunity to the ailment.
Another vaccine, called VLA15, targets the pathogenic strain. But, more clinical trials are necessary to evaluate its long-term efficiency.
Symptoms of Post Lyme Disease and Long-Term Effects – Should I Be Worried?
As the disease spreads through the nervous system, it begins to inflame the meninges tissues.
This is the area where the brain meets the spinal cord. Chronic Lyme disease can cause a severe headache, sensitivity to light, and neck aches or stiffness.
Sometimes, the Lyme infection can damage the facial nerve and lead to facial paralysis.
Chronic Lyme disease (aka post Lyme disease syndrome) happens to a person who took antibiotics for the disease but still keeps experiencing the symptoms.
Based on reports, roughly 10% to 20% of patients who receive appropriate antibiotics keep the symptoms, despite finishing their treatment.
These symptoms include pain in the muscles, poor cognition, joint discomfort, and fatigue.
The ailment can affect the body, muscles, and nervous system for many years.
That’s why the sooner you focus on disease control, the better.
Proper antibiotic therapy can keep the inflammation at bay and curb the flu-like symptoms.
What’s the Right Way to Treat the Ailment?
To diagnose the infection, your doctor will observe the body for any physical signs of the disease, e.g. inflammation or red rash.
If you recently spent time outdoors exposed to ticks, the doctor will suggest laboratory testing.
The majority of cases with this disease can get successful treatment in a couple of weeks.
But, the success rate will vary depending on how long you waited to ask for infection treatment.
When you ignore the infection for too long, the treatment failure rate varies from 35% to 50%.
This means that the odds of the symptoms persist after treatment are relatively high.
So, the sooner you spot the problem, the easier it is to get rid of it.
Treating the ailment involves the use of antibiotics.
These are a stepping-stone to a healthy body. The doctor will suggest either intravenous or oral antibiotics.
- Intravenous medication is a practical choice when the infection goes to the nervous system. People would need to take the medicine for 14 to 28 days. Just like any other medicine out there, intravenous drugs come with adverse events. They can cause bad diarrhea, infection, colonization, etc.
- Oral medicine is the “heart” of Lyme treatment. Adults and older children often take amoxicillin or doxycycline. Depending on how the body reacts to the treatment, people will take their medicine for 14-21 days or 10 to 14 days for milder cases.
Should You Use Alternative Medicine to Treat the Infection?
A lot of people want alternative treatment. They want to avoid the possibility of side effects and complications from taking medicine.
Options like vitamin B1, magnesium, fish oil, vitamin C, and Cat’s Claw are very popular.
They can supply the system with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
However, there isn’t enough research to support their effect on Lyme relief.
Only antibiotic medicine has the proven efficiency to deal with the ailment.
So, your treatment will depend on the medication you are taking.
If you are afraid the medicine could be causing side effects, then talk with your doctor.
They can refer you to an infectious disease specialist and lay out an ideal treatment strategy.
What you can do is make a note of what is happening to your body.
Pay attention to the signs, when they appeared, and how the medication is affecting your system.
Another option is to use an effective preventive strategy to repel ticks.
To do that, you should spray your clothes with permethrin.
This powerful insecticide can repel the arachnids.
Covering the skin with more clothing can also help.
Wear tight clothing that won’t expose the skin while moving through tick-infested areas.
It also helps to find a tick before it transmits the ailment.
The easiest way to do that is to wear clothes with lighter colors.
If you wear something black or dark, these tiny insects can be difficult to spot.
People who find ticks on their clothing should put the entire outfit in the dryer for 15 minutes.
The heat will kill the insects and dry the clothes at the same time.
Don’t forget that your pet can also carry ticks.
Take your pet to the vet and discuss the ways you can keep that from happening.
Avoid walking your pet in areas with high grass.
Before they enter your home, don’t forget to observe their body.
With regular monitoring, it’s easier to avoid getting bitten by a tick.
Lyme disease is a widespread problem.
The longer you avoid treatment, the bigger the risk of it spreading to the heart, nervous system, and joints.
People who obtain treatment tend to get rid of the infection in just a couple of weeks.
But, it is not uncommon for its symptoms to linger even post-treatment.
To know whether you have the infection, be sure to consult with a specialist. They can diagnose and treat the problem.