Lyme Disease And Tick Bites
Medikoe Health Expert
Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, which is transmitted to humans through an infected black-legged or deer tick’s bite. The ticks become infected when it feeds on mice or deer that are infected. The tick will have to be present on the patient’s skin for a day or two to infect the person. Usually, these ticks go unnoticed.
The disease was first discovered in Old Lyme, Connecticut in America in 1975; hence the name. It is very common in Europe and many regions in the United States. People who have farms with domestic animals, or live in the woods and other similar such environment have a higher risk of having the disease.
Lyme disease occurs in three stages in a person, i.e.
Early localized disease- This stage is the first stage, where the patient has just been infected and the infection has not spread all over the body.
Early disseminated Lyme disease- During this stage the bacteria will have travelled to the lymphatic system or the bloodstream.
Late disseminated Lyme disease- This is the final stage hat occurs if the Lyme disease hasn’t been treated yet, and affects major parts of the body like the joints, nerves, brain, eyes, and heart.
Anyone is susceptible to the bite of the tick, but some are under more risk of being bitten when compared to others. Since ticks are more prevalent in wooded areas like forests, hikers and campers or people who work in gardens are more prone to tick bites.
Tick bites occur more during the summer, as people spend a lot of time outsides, and the ticks happen to be active at the same time. This doesn’t mean the ticks aren’t active during other seasons; comparatively less active.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
People with Lyme disease have the symptoms appearing differently, depending on the stage of the disease you are in.
1. Symptoms of Early Localized disease: These symptoms set in within the first two weeks after the person has been infected. The main symptom of this stage is a rash called the “bulls-eye” rash, formally known as the erythema migrans. This looks like a red rash, which is surrounded by a ring of clear-looking skin, which is then surrounded by a ring of redness. The rash doesn’t itch or irritate but might be a little warm to touch and will disappear within four weeks.
Although this is a common symptom, not a lot of people will experience it. Some may just have a plain red rash, while in dark-skinned people, it will appear as a rash.
2. Symptoms of Early Disseminated Lyme disease- This is the stage of the disease when the bacteria will have entered the bloodstream and the lymphatic system, travelling throughout the body. During this stage, the person had flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, swelling of the lymph nodes, sore throat, muscle and body pain, changes in the vision, fatigue and headaches.
During this stage, the weakness kicks in, and the patient feels unwell. Other symptums include rashes in other areas besides the bite site, numbness, tingling, and some cases Bell’s palsy. This stage could also give rise to complications such as meningitis or cardiac conduction.
The symptoms of these stages overlap sometimes.
3. Symptoms of Late disseminated Lyme disease- This occurs when no treatment has been done while the patient was experiencing symptoms of the first two stages. These symptoms manifest months or years after the tick bite. Symptoms include,
Having severe headaches
One or few joints having arthritis
Minor disturbances in the heart rhythm
Disorders in the brain that could affect mood, memory or sleep
Short-term memory loss
Having a hard time concentration
Numbness in the upper and lower limbs
Cannot easily follow conversations
Diagnosis of Lyme Disease
Since major symptoms of the disease take months or years to manifest to diagnose a patient with Lyme, the doctor has to asses the health history of the patient a conduct a complete physical exam.
Blood tests help with the diagnosis if taken a few weeks after being bitten, as that is when the blood will have produced antibodies.
Doctors might ask you to take the following tests:
ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), to help detect any specific antibodies against the B. burgdorferi.
Western blot to further confirm a positive ELISA test, by looking for antibodies to specific B. burgdorferi proteins.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) - In this test, the joint fluid or spinal fluid is tested for Lyme arthritis and other nervous system symptoms.
Prevention of Lyme Disease
Since the disease occurs due to transmission of bacteria through a tick-bite, you can prevent Lyme disease by avoiding being bitten by a tick. This can be prevented by,
Covering your skin when outdoors, especially in areas like the woods. Minimal exposure reduces the risk of getting bitten
Using insect repellent to keep the ticks away or oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is also said to have insect repellent properties. Though it is not to be used on children below three years of age.
Making your place unfriendly to ticks by reducing the wood around, keeping the bushes trimmed and stocking woodpiles under the sun.
Keep looking out for ticks in yourself or your children and pets, even if you have been infected before.
Remove ticks on the body with tweezers and make sure of it being properly removed, and visit a doctor after a tick bite.
Treatment of Lyme Disease
It would be ideal to treat Lyme disease in its initial stages, as the bacteria will not have spread all over the body yet. The patient will just be prescribed antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection.
The chronic symptoms are treated by giving the patient intravenous antibiotic treatment. This is done to rid the body of the infection, which then improves the symptoms.
Other chronic or persistent systems still occur even after the bacteria has been eliminated from the body, though the reason for it hasn’t yet been identified. But doctors usually link it autoimmune diseases. This condition is called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. There has been no proven treatment for this condition.
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