What Is Lyme Disease, And How Can It Be Prevented?

Be aware of the initial signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, and it can be treated easily.

Lyme disease is the symptomatic result of a bacterial infection of Borrelia burgdorferi, spread generally by infected ticks in the wild. It is most prevalent in the intermediate climates of North America, Europe, and parts of Asia. Evidence seems to indicate that the disease cannot be spread by other parasitic insects, like fleas and mosquitoes.

The infected tick transfers its bacterial payload while feeding on its victims, as might be expected. When biting a victim, ticks, like many parasites, inject some amount of saliva into the flesh of the host to lightly numb the skin and raise the blood for extraction. The saliva of an infected tick is the source of its bacteria, and is the source of infection.

This should not, however, be an excuse for paranoia toward the outdoors. While the disease can be very serious, even disabling, if left untreated for some time, it should be remembered that a tick usually requires a full day's contact with its host before it can begin to feed. This means that if you go hiking in the woods, you have until tomorrow around the same time of day to spot the tick before even a marginal risk of infection occurs (which is to assume that the tick is infected in the first place, which is statistically unsound). If you travel through woods, especially with low-hanging branches or thick brush, check your body for ticks and other parasites when bathing or undressing, to reduce the risk of Lyme disease and other infections. The risk of infection is greatly increased if another twelve to twenty-four hours pass after the day allotted to attachment.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in its first month include a rash that expands from the site of infection, usually circular and red, sometimes with a pale center surrounding by a pink or reddish rim, much like a "bull's eye". This is the primary method of identification, especially for those located in high-risk locations, like the Atlantic of Pacific coasts of the United States, or other areas of similar climate. Usually infection occurs during the months of summer, as this is when ticks are most active and it is when people are most commonly outdoors.

Symptoms after the first month may include severe joint pain and swelling and heart and nervous problems of great severity. Partial paralysis may occur in its latest stages, but this can often be reversed through large-dose antibiotic treatments. Irregular heartbeat is also a symptom of advanced Lyme disease, and must be treated immediately. This may not resolve itself, and the use of a pacemaker may become necessary. Be sure to have any suspicious symptoms checked. The most common treatment for Lyme disease is a standard antibiotic like amoxycillin or doxycycline. Treatment in the early stages of the disease is nearly one hundred percent effective, and takes full effect within a few weeks, or even faster depending upon the immediacy of treatment.

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