What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease is contracted through a bite from a small tick. In most cases, Lyme Disease does not cause serious damage. In some untreated cases, however, the consequences can be disastrous.

Lyme Disease is a disorder caused by a spirochete (bacterium) transmitted through the bite of a tiny tick that lives on deer. The symptoms of Lyme Disease usually begin with a reddened rash and fever, headache or pain. With early treatment, the rash is curable in some patients within the first ten days. In untreated cases, joint pain and cardiovascular symptoms normally associated with multiple sclerosis may appear. There can be serious damage to other parts of the central nervous sysytem if the disease is allowed to progress.

Lyme Disease has three recognizable stages:

FIRST STAGE

In the inital stage, a small red bump appears at the site where the tick bites the individual. The bump usually enlarges and is accompanied by a rash, which appears three to thirty days from the time of the bite. Often a person will begin to feel ill around the time the rash is discovered. The rash may burn, itch, be painful or give no symptoms of its own. Along with the rash, flu-like symptoms may appear. Aching joints, chills ,headaches, fever, and fatigue may be experienced at this time. Normally, these are the only symptoms since in the majority of cases, the symptoms are cured before they are allowed to progress into a more serious condition. In other cases, although rare, Lyme Disease spreads to the heart and patients experience abnormal heart rhythms.

SECOND STAGE

If allowed to progress further, about two to three months after being infected the individual will experience migrating arthritis. That is, pain that moves from one joint to another. There can also be problems with concentration, memory and other neurological functions. This stage could also include episodes of lethargy, extreme fatigue, chills, fever, stiff neck, nausea, sore throat and enlarged lymph glands.

THIRD STAGE

This stage starts when the infection is allowed to go untreated for up to two years after infection. In this stage, the individual can experience crippling arthritis and other symptoms much like those of multiple sclerosis. Lyme arthritis often affects the larger joints such as the knee. There have been documented cases of this third stage progressing into the development of congestive heart failure, meningitis, joint deformity and brain damage.

Early treatment is the key to stopping the progression of Lyme Disease in the first stage. Diagnosis of Lyme Disease can be difficult since the symptoms can be confused with other conditions. As noted, advanced untreated symptoms may be mistaken for multiple sclerosis.

Doctors may successfully diagnose Lyme Disease with the aid of blood tests if the patient has had the disease for over four weeks. Blood tests before this point may provide unreliable results. These blood tests may even show positive readings after treatment has been completed. A more reliable method is the extraction of fluid from a joint for testing. However, the disease will have advanced by time that joints are affected and other Lyme Disease symptoms will have become apparent.



Lyme disease responds well to antibiotics, with most physicians using tetracycline for adults and penicillin for children. With antibiotic treatments, the bacteria is normally destroyed within thirty days. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to reduce the inflammation of the central nervous system. Alternative treatments are made available for those unable to undergo treatments involving penicillin, etc.

PREVENTION

There are several strategies to reduce the chance of being bitten by ticks which may carry this bacterium:

---If hiking or walking in the woods or a rural area, wear light-colored clothing.

---Always stay on the trail when hiking or walking. Ticks live in low bushes and tall grass.

---Use insect repellent containing DEET or permethrine before going into wooded areas or while outside during warmer months.

---Clear brush and leaves from yards and wear protective clothing while doing so. Long-sleeved shirts with tight collars and cuffs and long pants should give adequate protection. Pants legs should be tucked into socks so that ticks will not have a hiding area.

---Check skin and clothing often for ticks. Also check pets for ticks.

---If a tick is found, grasp the tick with a pair of tweezers, as close to the your skin as possible and pull with a steady upward motion until the tick is removed. If any part of the tick remains on or in the skin, remove as you would a splinter. Apply antiseptic to the site of the bite and wash the hands thoroughly with soap and water. Watch the area for the next month for a sign of a rash. If one appears, see a doctor immediately with information on when the bite occurred. The doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic treatment. However, antibiotics are only needed if a person is sick after being bitten. Those who have no reaction need no medication.

© High Speed Ventures 2011