Healthy Living

5 Misconceptions About Lyme Disease

5 Misconceptions About Lyme Disease

Key Takeaways

  • Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria and is spread to humans by ticks.
  • There are over 30 species of ticks, and only a few of them are capable of transmitting the disease.
  • Lyme disease is not contagious. 

People cannot resist themselves from having fun and playing outdoors in the warm spring weather. However, the increased time of being out also increases the risk of encountering with nature’s peskier pests. One such problem is the tick, which is associated with Lyme disease. Tick bites can cause Lyme disease. However, there are some beliefs about the disease that are unscientific in nature but believed by many. You may also be a victim of one of these common myths and misconceptions. This article will shed light on these beliefs and give a scientific explanation of the reality of the disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria and is spread to humans by ticks. Ticks are mostly found in long grasses and woody areas.

1. All ticks spread Lyme disease.

This belief is completely untrue. There are over 30 species of ticks, and only a few of them are capable of transmitting the disease. The ticks that can transmit the disease are:

  • Black-legged ticks
  • Western black-legged ticks

The scientific names for these ticks are Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus, respectively. The Western black-legged tick spreads the disease in the Pacific region of the USA. Other common ticks that do not transmit Lyme disease include:

  • American dog tick
  • Lone star tick
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick
  • Brown dog tick

For this reason, not all tick bites will result in infections, since they are not infected with bacteria.

2. Tick bites always result in Lyme disease.

Again, this is a false assumption. You may be bitten by a tick that is not a carrier of the Lyme-causing bacteria. Some tick bites will result in an infection that resembles Lyme disease. To be completely sure, you will have to pay a visit to the doctor. Moreover, if you remove the tick from your body before it spends 36 hours on your body, then you are likely not to get infected.

To determine whether the bite will result in Lyme disease or not, one needs to understand the ratio of infection. In an area where Lyme disease is very common, 1 out of 4 to 5 ticks might be infected. In other areas where the disease is not common, 1 out of 100 is infected. Another way to be sure that the tick bite will not result in Lyme disease is to remove the tick from your body within 24 hours. The prompt removal of the attached tick dramatically drops the rate of infection, making a person less likely to be infected with the disease.

3. Lyme disease is contagious.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that is sheltered in animals and birds. Ticks get logged onto these animals and transmit the disease to human beings. Although it may seem like the disease spreads among people who are close to each other, there is no reliable evidence that suggests that it is communicable. Lyme disease is not contagious. It cannot be transmitted sexually or through blood transfusion or any other type of contact with the infected person. Then how is it transmitted? The only way of transmission is through the bite of infected ticks. The ticks take about 3 to 4 days to set inside the human body and then release the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

Then how is it transmitted? The only way of transmission is through the bite of infected ticks. The ticks take about three to four days to set in the human body and then release the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

4. If you get Lyme disease, you have to live with it all your life.

This belief is among the oldest and most believed myths about Lyme disease. Today, the disease can be diagnosed and treated early. However, the treatment time may take too long. In some cases, people have to spend even 17 years with the disease. To get better faster, it is important to find a good doctor who has experience in treating the disease. It is also necessary to make adjustments in your lifestyle, and more importantly, your diet. The reason is that your diet influences your body's level of inflammation and immunity. If you let your body’s resistance works at its best, and reduce inflammation by eating well, then you should have a shorter healing time. At best, you may still spend two years with the disease.

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics but there should not be any delay. Even the patients who were not treated for long have good progress once they start the treatment.

Lyme disease disappears completely in almost everybody. However, in some cases, symptoms like muscle and joint pain or memory problems may persist. 

5. Blood tests for Lyme disease are inaccurate.

Many people believe that positive blood tests for Lyme disease are only less than 65 percent accurate most of the time, which is completely wrong. What is true, however, is that in the initial stages of the disease, you may test negative. After a few weeks, usually between four to six weeks of infection, the disease can be correctly detected by ELISA, IFA, and EIA blood tests.

The result of the blood test depends on how long the tick was removed before the test is carried out. Antibody tests are used to detect the presence of bacteria in the blood. If the result of the test is negative, it means that the body did not have the time to make antibodies; hence, at the early stage of the disease, most of the tests are negative. However, if the infection has been going on for months or years without the person knowing it, the test may yield a positive result.

Patients with Lyme disease are initially recommended to have an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA test. It is a test where it checks the antibodies produced by the body in response to the Lyme-causing bacteria. If the test is positive, then a western blot test is carried out. This test looks for the specific type of protein pattern that resembles with the characteristic of Lyme. Other tests include a DNA test called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody titers to verify the tick-borne infection.

A possible error in detecting the bacteria is if the patient has already been taking antibiotics. Antibiotics can prevent the development of antibodies or make the level of antibodies too small to be detected.