What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease also called Lyme borreliosis is an inflammatory disorder in which the first symptoms that appear include rash, fever, headache, chills and then later arthritis, cardiac and neurological disorders. It is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi.
The early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease
The very first sign to appear is a red rash that is circular and expanding around the tick bite and later accompanied by flu-like symptoms and pain in joints. It may usually take 30 days or more to develop after being bitten by the tick. This condition is known as erythema migrans. The affected area is red and the borders are raised.
Other signs and symptoms of Lyme disease
If Lyme disease is left untreated or treatment is not started at an early stage, serious problems may develop:
- Rashes, known as erythema migrans, appears in other body parts
- Swelling and joint pain especially a knee joint pain and swelling. Other joints of the body are also affected.
- Neurological problems develop like meningitis, numbness or weakness of the limbs, impaired muscle movements, bell's palsy, etc.
Less common signs and symptoms of Lyme disease
- Heart problems like irregular heartbeat, which tends to last for a couple of weeks
- Eye inflammation
Lyme disease risk factors
- Spending too much time in grassy or wooded areas children who spend a lot of time outside are at higher risk. Similarly, adults who spend more time outside for work are at higher risk too.
- Exposing skin while outside. Ticks easily attach to the bare skin. Try wearing proper cloth which covers your arms and legs in order to prevent any tick bites.
- If you notice a tick bite, remove the tick as soon as you notice it. If the tick is not removed within 36 to 48 hours, the chances of getting Lyme disease are higher.
Lyme disease complications
If left untreated, serious complications may develop like joint inflammation, cognitive defects, neurological problems, as well as heart problems.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are not specific. A complete medical history and proper physical checkups are necessary.
Lab tests should be done to identify antibodies that can confirm the diagnosis. The best time to do these lab tests is after a few weeks so that antibodies may develop in the meantime. These lab tests include:
- ELISA test - It detects antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi. It is not used as a single test for the diagnosis as it can produce false-positive results. This test may not give positive results in the early stages but the rash is often enough to confirm the diagnosis.
- Western Blot test - when ELISA results are positive then this test is done to confirm the diagnosis. This test is done to detect the antibodies against several proteins of causative bacteria.
Lyme disease treatment
As Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are used for its treatment. The prognosis is very good as soon as the treatment starts.