Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the corkscrew shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is found in blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks. They can be found in the United States, most notably in the East coast region, and in over 60 other countries throughout the world. Most people get Lyme disease from the nymphal or immature version of the tick. Ticks during the nymph stage are tiny compared to the adult version which could be harder for an individual to spot. Lyme disease can be a difficult illness to diagnose and treat, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious long term health complications.
The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person, and they could also change over time. When an individual first contracts Lyme disease, it is called early-stage Lyme disease. During early-stage Lyme disease, the person may experience flu like symptoms like chills, muscle aches, fever, and nausea. Some other symptoms include face drooping and developing a rash. A rash shaped like a bullseye is usually associated with Lyme disease, but not all rashes formed from Lyme disease are the same as they can differ in appearance. If Lyme disease is not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, the bacteria can make its way throughout more of the body and progress to a more severe form known as late-stage Lyme disease. During late-stage Lyme disease, the person may experience joint pain, musculoskeletal or neurological complications like memory loss or difficulty concentrating, and in some rare cases it can cause irregular heartbeats. Sometimes permanent damage is done to the nervous system even after it has been properly treated.
One of the challenges of Lyme disease is that it can be difficult to diagnose. Lyme disease, also known as “The Great Imitator”, can have similar symptoms to other illnesses and the standard tests used for diagnosing are not always accurate. This can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment, which can in turn lead to more severe health complications. There is also a great deal of controversy surrounding Lyme disease as some people believe that chronic Lyme disease exists and that it can cause long-term health problems even after treatment with antibiotics.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to take necessary precautions to avoid tick bites. Ticks tend to stay near the ground is grasses, fallen logs, and leaves. If you have to go to an area like this and there are no clearer paths to take, then it is important to dress appropriately. Wearing socks, long pants, and long shirts will help create a barrier between your skin and the tick if it happens to get on you. If they are light colored, then it would be easier for you to spot a tick if it got on your clothes. The opening of your clothes should not be lost to prevent ticks from crawling because the tick might be able to crawl to a spot that makes it harder to find. You could also use insect repellant with lemon eucalyptus oil, DEET, or picaridin to keep ticks away.
When you come back home after being in an area that may have ticks, make sure you take a shower. This will wash away the tick if it didn’t get a chance to latch on. It would also be a good time to check and see if there were any ticks that got on you. Make sure to check hidden areas like the armpits and scalp. If you were unaware that ticks got on your clothes, you could put them in a hot dryer for 10 minutes and it would kill any that might still be on. If you do find a tick attached to you, you want to get it off as soon as you can. There is not a clear understanding of how long it takes for a tick to transmit the bacteria, but it is believed that you would not want it on you for more than 24 hours. When removing a tick, get a pair of tweezers or a tick removal device and get it as close to the skin as possible. In a steady motion, pull the tick away from the skin and when it tick is removed, cleanse the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. If you think you may be experiencing any symptoms after being bitten, seek medical attention. As stated, Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose so make sure they know about the bite. With the right precautions taken and timely medical care, it is possible to prevent and effectively treat Lyme disease.