What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacterium carried by deer ticks. The bacterium is called borrelia burgdorferi. The carrier tick passes the bacteria to animals and humans through their bites. The bacteria travels through the blood stream and will settle in various body tissues, causing a different number of symptoms if left untreated. When diagnosed and treated early, it can almost always be cured. Even if caught later, it rarely causes permanent damage.
Lyme disease is more prevalent in the upper east coast, upper Midwest, northern California, and the Oregon coast, but every state has cases each year.
Early symptoms are subtle and often overlooked, so it is imperative to know the symptoms so you can get to a doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick, or you start to exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- Erythema Migrans (Expanding Rash) – An expanding red rash is usually the first symptom of infection.
- Can be a solid red expanding rash or look like a bullseye.
- Appears 1-2 weeks after transmission.
- Has an average diameter of 5-6 inches.
- Joint Pains, Chills, Fever, and Fatigue- Will present themselves around the same time as the rash, and are often brushed off as a cold, or other conditions.
If undiagnosed, the later stages of symptoms can be more severe such as facial palsy, tingling/numbness in extremities, and disabling neurological disorders.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to accurately and quickly diagnose Lyme disease, your doctor will need to know what your exposure to deer ticks has been, or if you can confirm you have been bitten by a tick. Blood tests can confirm diagnosis after that.
The treatment of Lyme disease regardless of the stage, is primarily with antibiotics. Early stages are treated with amoxicillin or doxycycline, and the later stages may require IV antibiotics like penicillin, or ceftriaxone.
Lyme disease is not the only infection ticks can spread, and ticks also can spread these to your pets. Yikes. Ticks must be attached to the body at least 36 hours or more for it to transmit the infection, so a little prevention can go a long way.
- Areas Ticks are Found In– Ticks love grassy, bushy, or wooded areas. Avoid these areas, or use preventative measures listed below.
- Treat Your Clothing and Gear- Treat clothing, camping gear, and boots with products containing 0.5% permethrin. This will stay on even after several washings.
- Use Insect Repellants on Skin- The repellant should contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
Once Inside Your Home:
- Check Clothing and Gear- Remove any ticks you find. You can also put dry clothes in the dryer on high for 10 mins to kill any ticks. If clothes need to be washed, use hot water.
- Check Pets- Carefully check pets and remove any ticks.
- Shower- Showering soon after you are indoors can help remove any ticks that are not attached.
- Check Your Body- You can do this while in the shower, but also after. You need to check all your body, paying special attention to the places ticks like to hide such as: Underarms, in and around ears, belly button, back of knees, between legs, and in and around hair.
If you find a tick, use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight up with steady pressure. Some examples of how to dispose of a tick are; put it in a container with rubbing alcohol, or flush down the toilet. Clean the tick removal area with alcohol.
At New England Research Associates, we have several upcoming clinical studies evaluating new vaccine for the prevention of Lyme disease. We need healthy volunteers and those that have been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Qualified participants receive compensation for time and travel. For more information on the study or to apply, click HERE.