What is Lyme disease and what causes it?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection commonly seen in North America and Europe. It is caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria is transmitted to humans through a tiny black-legged deer tick, which feeds on human blood.
Is Lyme disease contagious?
No, it is not contagious. However, experts say that the bacteria can be transmitted from one person to another via sexual intercourse. There is also some evidence that the disease can be transmitted to the fetus from its mother via the placenta.
What is early disseminated Lyme disease?
Early disseminated Lyme disease is a stage of Lyme disease wherein the Lyme-causing bacteria is spread throughout the body. This stage can occur just in a few days, weeks, months, or even years after the initial tick bite. Lyme disease has 3 stages in its course of disease. Early disseminated Lyme disease is the second stage. The 3 stages are:
- Localized Lyme disease – This is the stage that occurs a few days after the initial tick bite. It causes a red rash over the bitten area as well as fever with chills and muscular pain.
- Early disseminated Lyme disease – This is stage two of the Lyme disease, which occurs a few weeks following the tick bite. If the infection was not treated during stage one, the bacteria begins to spread throughout the body producing several symptoms. These symptoms will be explained later in this article.
- Late disseminated Lyme disease – This is stage three of the disease, occurring several months to years after the tick bite. At this stage, the bacteria have already spread throughout the body, and the patients may experience episodes of arthritis and neurological symptoms such as numbness and short-term memory problems.
What are the symptoms of Early Disseminated Lyme disease?
As you know, these symptoms may occur a several days or weeks after the initial tick bite. The symptoms experienced in this stage are:
- Bull’s-eye rash or Erythema migrans in areas other than the site of the tick bite.
- Bell’s palsy that occurs as a result of the inflammation of Lyme disease. Bell’s palsy is described as the weakness of one side or both sides of the face.
- Symptoms like headache, photophobia, and neck stiffness are suggestive of meningitis (inflammation of the membranes covering the brain).
- Severe muscular pain or numbness of the arms and legs.
- Joint pain and swelling, especially in the large joints such as knee, elbow, and shoulder joints.
- Palpitations, dizziness, and faintness suggestive of heart complications.
Am I at risk of early disseminated Lyme disease?
You will be at risk, if you have been bitten by an infected deer tick and have not yet received any treatment. If you live in North America or Europe, then again, you will have a higher chance of contracting the disease, as Lyme disease is more common in these areas. If you own a pet, then they could also carry the disease and increase your risk. If you walk or hike in wooded areas, where these deer ticks are commonly found also puts you at risk.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no diagnostic test for Lyme disease, but there are several tests that will help your doctor make a diagnosis together with a detailed history and complete physical exam.
The most commonly used test in Lyme disease is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). This test checks the level of antibodies produced by the body against the bacteria. The western blot test is done to confirm the diagnosis made by the ELISA test.
Once your doctor makes a diagnosis, he/she will start on your treatment. The standard treatment of early disseminated Lyme disease is a course of oral antibiotics called doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime for 14 to 21 days.
The route of antibiotics will vary depending on your situation and symptoms. The IV route is preferred if your condition is severe. With complete treatment, you can expect a complete and healthy recovery.
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- Symptoms may occur for several days or weeks after the initial tick bite.
- There is no diagnostic test for Lyme disease.
- With complete treatment, you can expect a complete and healthy recovery.