What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete that are spread to humans through a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick.
Lyme disease is more likely in people who play outside and go camping, hunting, and hiking. These activities are more common in males up to age 15 and between the ages of forty and sixty. Hence they are likely to be infected.
How to Prevent Tick Bites
There are following steps that can be taken to prevent or decrease your risk of experiencing a tick bite:
• When in the outdoors, wear shoes, long-sleeve shirts, a hat, gloves and long pants.
• Avoid places where ticks live, such as grassy, bushy or wooded areas, or even on animals. Extra precautions should be strictly adhered to when engaging in activities that bring you in close contact with ticks such as camping, gardening or hunting.
• Insect repellent with a 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET should be applied to the skin. This chemical repellent is very toxic and should be applied with cautions especially in children. Parents should apply repellent to their children, avoiding their hands, eyes, and mouth.
• Buy pre-treated clothing, boots and camping gears with 0.5% permethrin.
• Walk in the center of trails
• Gently remove a tick as soon as possible with tweezers. Grasp the tick near its head or mouth. Do not squeeze the tick, but carefully and steadily pull it out of your skin. Once the entire tick is removed, dispose it and apply an antiseptic to the bite area
How Do You Get Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is transmitted by Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria, carried primarily by black-legged or deer ticks. The ticks are brown and, when young, often no bigger than a poppy seed, which can make them nearly impossible to spot.
To contract Lyme disease, an infected deer tick must bite you. The bacteria burrow your skin through the bite and eventually find their way into your bloodstream. In most cases, to transmit Lyme disease, a deer tick must be attached for three to four days (36 to 48 hours). If you find an attached tick looks swollen, it may have fed long enough to transmit bacteria. To prevent infection, the tick should be removed as soon as possible
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Symptoms can occur anywhere from 3 to 30 days after the bite and can be wide-ranging, depending on the stage of the infection. In some cases, symptoms can appear months after the bite.
The early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease is a “bulls-eye” rash also known as erythema migrans. This rash starts at the site of the tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days and spreads gradually over a period of days reaching a diameter of 12 inches or more (30cm). It doesn’t itch, and it isn’t painful but may be warm to touch. This rash is said to be typical of Lyme disease, it occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected individuals and may appear on any part of the body. Infected persons in the early stage can also present with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, chills, muscle and joint aches, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes near the site of the tick bite.
If left untreated, later signs and symptoms of Lyme disease might manifest and can occur weeks, months or years after the tick bite. These symptoms include
• Irregular heart rhythm or palpitations. Rarely last more than a few days or weeks.
• Encephalitis (Inflammation of the brain)
• Neck stiffness with severe headaches caused by inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain
• Loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face (Paralysis of facial muscles)
• Diffuse erythema migrans rashes on other areas of the body,
• Bouts of severe pain affecting the muscles, joints, tendons, and bones.
• Arthritis affecting the knees and other large joints in the body, with severe pain and swelling. (Lyme arthritis)
• Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet with shooting pains
• Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).
• Difficulty concentrating
• Short-term memory loss
• Visual problems or inflammation of the eye.
• Loss of consciousness or shortness of breath.
• Problem with sleep.
Is There a Test to Check for Lyme Disease?
Yes there is.The diagnosis of Lyme disease is carried out by a doctor, who begins with a thorough assessment of your health history, tick exposure, and a physical examination. Blood tests are most reliable a few weeks after the initial infection when antibodies are present.
The center for disease control (CDC) currently recommends a two-step process when testing blood for the presence of antibodies against the Lyme disease bacteria. The two steps can be done using the same blood sample.
The first step uses a procedure called Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. This procedure detects antibodies to B. burgdorferi. The only limitation of this test is that it can sometimes provide false-positive results. Hence, it is not used as the sole basis for diagnosis. The rash is unique enough to make the diagnosis in an endemic region, even if the test comes out negative in the early stage of the disease.
If the ELISA test is positive, the Western blot test is usually employed in the second process to confirm the diagnosis. The Western blot detects antibodies to several proteins of the bacteria B. burgdorferi.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to evaluate people with persistent Lyme arthritis or nervous system symptoms. It is performed on joint fluid or spinal fluid.
Some doctors may find it difficult to recognize symptoms, especially those who practice in areas where Lyme infection isn’t endemic, and up to 30% of the diseases are not accompanied by a typical “bull’s eye” rash.
Bockenstedt, L., & Wormser, G. (2014). Review: Unraveling Lyme Disease. Arthritis & Rheumatology, 66(9), 2313-2323. doi: 10.1002/art.38756
Lyme Disease | ALDF. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.aldf.com/lyme-disease/
Sigal, L. (1998). Pitfalls in the diagnosis and management of Lyme disease. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 41(2), 195-204. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(199802)41:2<195::aid-art3>3.3.co;2-p
Sigal, L. (1998). Pitfalls in the diagnosis and management of Lyme disease. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 41(2), 195-204. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(199802)41:2<195::aid-art3>3.0.co;2-y