Lyme Disease Awareness

Danielle Farias
May 1, 2018

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month!

Lyme Disease affects so many people in the US yet there is little known to the mass public on what it is and how incapacitates those affected. In honor of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, we want to provide education to our patients and followers on what Lyme Disease is, how to prevent getting Lyme and catching the early signs. According to the CDC, Lyme Disease is the fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the United States and knowing the signs and the risk areas is important in preventing the disease.

What is Lyme?

"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 migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. 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."(²) However, if left untreated there can be extreme health issues that could arise.

Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease

Early Signs and Symptoms (3 to 30 days after tick bite)

  • Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
  • Erythema migrans (EM) rash:
Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
Expands gradually over a period of days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across
May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance
May appear on any area of the body

Later Signs and Symptoms (days to months after tick bite)
  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints
  • Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
  • Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)
  • Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Nerve pain
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Other symptoms are possible as Lyme affects each patient differently

Long term exposure to the disease without treatment can severely affect the nervous and immune system in those infected. However, CDC says fewer than 50% of patients with Lyme Disease recall a tick bite or a rash. Which is why it's important to take as many precautionary measures as possible now that we're heading in to the outdoor season full of camping, hiking, and more that puts us right in the middle of tick territory.

How To Prevent The Disease

Cover up! - When in wooded or grassy areas, wear shoes, long pants tucked into your socks, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat and gloves. Try to stick to trails and avoid walking through low bushes and long grass. Keep your dog on a leash.

Use insect repellent - There are several tick insect repellents out there, though most contain harmful chemicals. Check the EWG database for what products are safe to use. You can either use a spray for easy application on yourself and your children, or use an oil and rub on high exposure skin areas such as ankles and arms. You can also put a drop or two in between your dog's shoulder blades before you go out to prevent them from tick exposure.

Do your best to tick-proof your yard - Clear brush and leaves where ticks live. Keep woodpiles in sunny areas.

Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks - Be especially vigilant after spending time in wooded or grassy areas. Deer ticks are often no bigger than the head of a pin, so you may not discover them unless you search carefully. It's helpful to shower as soon as you come indoors. Ticks often remain on your skin for hours before attaching themselves. Showering and using a washcloth might remove unattached ticks.

Don't assume you're immune - You can get Lyme disease more than once.

Remove a tick as soon as possible with tweezers - Gently grasp the tick near its head or mouth. Don't squeeze or crush the tick, but pull carefully and steadily. You can also apply a heated object to its rear and the tick should wiggle itself out. Once you've removed the entire tick put into a seal-able plastic bag or container with a closed lid and contact your doctor on steps to have the tick checked to see if it is a carrier of the Lyme Disease.

If you find you have been infected with Lyme by experiencing the above mentioned symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor right away to get adequate treatment for the disease. 40% of Lyme patients end up with long term health problems for those not initially treated for the disease, and the average patient that was not initially diagnosed with the diseases sees 5 doctors over nearly 2 years before being diagnosed. All in all, be proactive in preventing your chances of being bitten by a tick by utilizing the aforementioned prevention tactics and if you are bitten be sure to save the tick, if possible, and contact your doctor immediately for necessary treatment.

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