Lyme Disease

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial illness caused by a spirochete, or a spiral-shaped bacteria that can drill into cell walls and tissues, called Borrelia burgdorferi; and, it is the most prevalent vector-borne illness.

Ticks are carriers of the bacteria, and if they attach to the skin of a person, they can transmit the disease. Ticks can hide in hard-to-see areas, like the scalp, or they can be as small as a mustard seed, so a person may have no idea that a tick bit them.

Besides Borrelia burgdorferi, ticks often carry co-infections, like Babesiosis, a parasitic disease that can cause muscle pain and nausea, or Bartonella, a bacteria which can hide in red blood cells and cause headaches, rashes, and fatigue. While ticks can live in many regions, people living in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the U.S. are at a higher risk for getting the disease””especially those who do lots of outdoor activities.

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms can be similar to so many other conditions, like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis. Even Lyme blood tests can present false negatives which can make narrowing down the illness even more difficult.

Symptoms usually appear after a month after a tick bite, however, many patients develop the hallmark rash: erythmia migrans””or a rash that looks like a bull’s eye. If a patient doesn’t get a rash, it can be harder to identify the Lyme disease and symptoms can include major fatigue, fever, chills, cognitive problems, photophobia, headaches, stiff neck, creaking/swollen joints, brain fog, swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, sensitivity to noise, tremors, anxiety, memory difficulties, speech difficulties, heart complications, and the like.

Lyme Disease Causes

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bites of Ixodes ticks, which are also known as deer ticks and black-legged ticks. These ticks transmit a class of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. There are 21 varieties of this bacteria, but only three are thought to cause Lyme disease.

Deer ticks bite into the skin and remain attached to feed on blood. Their bite is often painless and an individual may not be aware that they have been bitten. The longer that the tick is attached, the greater the chance of developing Lyme disease. If a tick has been attached for less than 36 hours then the chance of developing Lyme disease is minimal.

Once an individual has been infected, the bacteria can spread throughout the body and affect many different areas, including the skin, heart, joints, and brain. This is why the symptoms of Lyme Disease are so varied.

How is Lyme Disease Treated?

Lyme disease is an extremely controversial condition and there are many routes for treatment. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) says that it can easily be remedied; however, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) says that the blood tests are not always dependable and that a month of antibiotics may not completely eradicate the bacteria if it isn’t caught early.

If a person is able to spot the tick early, he or she should remove it completely with tweezers and put it in a sealed bag to take to the doctor for testing. In these early stages, the person should also do a course of antibiotics””usually doxycycline. If a patient already presents serious cardiac or neurological symptoms, then a doctor may recommend a stronger dosage or IV treatment.

If Lyme is not caught on time, symptoms may last for many months””or even years. Although colloquially known as “chronic Lyme,” some people develop what’s called “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS) even after a recommended course of antibiotics. Some people with PTLDS may need to seek out alternative therapies, like herbal protocols, acupuncture, or rife machine usage. Some choose to seek out Lyme-literate doctors (LLMDs) for treatments that may not be approved by other medical institutions. While some of these alternative treatments can help ease symptoms, it is recommended that those with PTLDS do thorough research before committing to a therapy.

Lastly, at-home remedies like epsom salt baths can help to ease joint and muscle pain. Following a graded-exercise program and cutting out foods that can cause inflammation may also help those with Lyme.

Lyme Disease Prevention

There is no vaccine that can prevent you from being infected with Lyme disease. Therefore the only preventive measure you can take is to avoid being bitten, and to quickly remove ticks that have attached to you.

When you are out, keep to the footpaths wherever possible and avoid overgrown areas and long grass. Repellents are also available that are effective against ticks. On exposed skin, use repellents containing 20% DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. On clothing, use repellents containing 0.5% permethrin.

When you get home, always inspect your skin, clothing, and pet’s fur. If you find a tick has attached to you, use tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it directly away from the skin. Do not twist it, or scratch it off with your fingers, as the tick’s mouth may remain attached. Clean the bite area with alcohol or iodine afterwards.