First of all, what is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a nasty, nasty infection which can be pretty stubborn at times. According to Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 300,000 Americans are infected with Lyme disease every tick season. The tick season is during the spring and summer. The first incidence of Lyme disease was reported in 1975 in a town called Old Lyme, in Connecticut. Lyme disease is the most common tick borne infection in both Europe and the United States. People living in wooded areas as well as people who own outdoor pets that go in to the woods are more likely to develop Lyme disease.
Lyme is sometimes mentioned as 'The great Imitator'. This is because the symptoms of Lyme Disease resembles or imitates the symptoms of other diseases. Often the symptoms resemble those having multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc. Hence it is difficult to diagnose Lyme at a primary observation. This misdiagnosis often complicates the disease in most cases. It can affect the vital organs such as the heart, brain, nervous system, muscles and joints too. Untreated Lyme leads to develop severe symptoms that are difficult to resolve.
The symptoms of Lyme disease are similar to that of flu or the fever. Often times the patient will exhibit symptoms of body aches and pains, as well as headache. Other symptoms can get worse, much worse, and can eventually result in chronic debilitating joint pain. Only 30,000 cases are reported each year and many cases are therefore left untreated, as an estimated 300,000 cases occur each year.
You can get Lyme disease from a back legged deer tick, but not all ticks carry the disease. Although this deer tick is smaller than the head of a pin, it can cause serious health concerns. 1 out of every 4 or 5 deer ticks may be infected with the disease in areas where Lyme disease is most common.
Many misconceptions about the disease:
There are many misconceptions about the disease within the general public. Many might think that everyone with Lyme disease develops the characteristically tell-tale sign of Bull’s eye rash. However, this is not always the case. The CDC says only about 70% of the patients with Lyme disease develop this telltale sign, but this percentage will also will vary from region to region.
How the bacteria enter human body?
People often get Lyme from the bite of immature ticks often termed as Nymphs. These immature ticks are smaller than head lice and their bite is often painless. People may not even notice that they have been bitten. Transmission of the disease depends on how long the tick is attached. There are even chances of transmitting the disease from a pregnant mother to the unborn child through the blood stream. Lyme is a zoonotic disease (passed from animals to human) and the possibility of spreading the disease through human to human interaction has little scientific evidence as of yet. Common symptoms include:
1. Symptoms of flu, such as fever, sweating, pain in muscles and joints, fatigue etc.
2. Rashes on skin (bull's eye shaped rashes are most evident symptom of lyme disease)
3. Inadequate sleep
4. Depression and cognitive impairment.
The cause of Lyme disease
The bacterium that is responsible for Lyme disease is Borelia burgdoferi. Most of the symptoms of Lyme disease is caused by the way the bacteria targets the immune system causing inflammation of the tissues and cells. Borelia burgdoferi targets on the peripheral nervous system causing pain in the back, hands & feet, arms and legs.
This inflammation can also affect the central nervous system (CNS) causing symptoms like headache, fatigue, and even scary symptoms like memory loss, learning difficulties or depression.
Lyme disease can be treated completely if caught early but most often the disease is misdiagnosed as another disease or is missed. Therefore in these cases, the disease will continue to persist causing a chronic debilitating illness in the patient.
If the disease is caught early
If the disease is caught early, then it could be easily treated with a simple course of antibiotics for a period of about 14 to 21 days. However, in some cases especially in ones that have been missed or misdiagnosed, antibiotics do not work on these bacteria. Dormant persistent cells will evade these antibiotics which mean that these organisms have the ability to remain dormant. Once the antibiotic therapy has been stopped, these organisms wake up and affect the nervous system again.
To avoid getting to the chronic stage of lyme disease, you will need to make sure your disease is diagnosed early and treated. In many cases, patients progress to the post treatment stage because of self treating or visiting under qualified doctors. Self treating may appear to be cheaper but is never the best option. In the long run, you will have to spend much more money treating the advanced stage of the disease.
Keep in mind that during the initial stages of lyme disease, the symptoms may disappear. If you got bitten by a tick, it is best to place your stake on you having lyme disease. Even if the symptoms are initially suppressed, the disease will still develop to its chronic stage and end up debilitating you.
According to CDC, Up to 20 percent of Lyme disease cases can cause long term symptoms, including arthritis in the joints, cognitive difficulties, chronic fatigue, and sleep disturbances, even after antibiotic treatment. At its chronic stage, the disease will also cause trouble with the reproductive system, heart and blood circulation and the skin.
Is it contagious? Can it spread from one person to another?
No, Lyme disease is not contagious. However, if you are pregnant and diagnosed with Lyme disease, you can transmit the bacteria to your baby via the placenta. Therefore it is important that you get yourself tested and treated if you have signs similar to that of Lyme disease.
What you should you do if a tick bites?
1. Don’t try to squeeze it with your naked fingers.
2. Use plucker tools or tweezers to remove the tick.
3. Disinfect the area bitten by tick.
4. Consult a physician if required.
- According to Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 300,000 Americans are infected with Lyme disease every tick season.
- Not all ticks carry the disease.
- 1 out of every 4 or 5 deer ticks may be infected with the disease in areas where Lyme disease is very common.
- Tick season is during the spring and summer.