What Does Lyme Disease Look Like?
Lyme disease is a bacterial-related disease caused by tick bites. It can affect the skin, joints, heart, and nervous system. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics.
The disease occurs in phases: the first phase starts with a tick bite and a slowly-expanding ring of redness that turns into a painful blister. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on the clinical signs of the illness in the patient. It can expose antibodies to the contributing bacteria in the blood, so it needs to be controlled and cured using antibiotics.
Lyme disease is not contagious, but it can cause serious harm to one's health. It is mainly caused by a bacterium called spirochete, which is also known as Borrelia burgdorferi. In Europe, the bacteria Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii cause Lyme disease.
Some ticks found on deer stay on the skin and stomach and can spread Lyme disease when the bacterium comes into contact with other animals and people nearby.
History of Lyme Disease
Interestingly, the disease only became apparent in 1975, when the mothers of a group of children who lived near each other in Lyme, Conn., told researchers that their children had all been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Deer ticks in the United States (U.S.) are known as Ixodes scapularis, which carry the bacterium in their stomachs and can transmit the bacterium to humans with a tick bite. The number of cases of the disease is mainly dependent on the number of ticks present and how often the ticks are infected with the bacteria. Some areas in the U.S. are largely affected by Lyme disease.
The disease has been reported most often in the northeastern U.S., but it has been seen in all fifty states, as well as China, Europe, Japan, Australia, and parts of the former Soviet Union. In the U.S., it is primarily contracted in the northeast from Maine to Maryland, in the Midwest in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and in the west in Oregon and northern California.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease occurs in children between the ages of five and fourteen, and in adults aged forty to fifty years.
The disease is more active in substantial areas with a higher risk of Lyme disease. Its risk factors include occupational exposure to ticks and outdoor activities, including gardening, walking in woods, moving in the fields, and other high-risk areas.
The disease does not pass from mothers to unborn babies under any circumstances. Lyme disease is not contagious at all and is not spread by touching or by sharing personal belongings, only through tick bites.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
Lyme disease affects different areas of the body in various degrees. The bacteria mainly enter the body the moment the tick bite pierces through the skin.
The initial tick bite causes the infection and expands a reddish rash all over the area, which often produces fever-like conditions. The tick bite spreads the bacterium, which causes many abnormalities in the joints, heart, and nervous system.
The Three Stages of Lyme Disease
The disease is medically defined in three different phases:
- The disease is localized, with skin inflammation and rash at the area around the tick bites.
- The disease can cause palsies and meningitis, and can damage the heart and nervous system.
- The disease also features motor and nerve damage and brain inflammation, along with arthritis.
In the early phase of the illness (within days to one week of the tick bite), the skin around the bite develops an increasing ring of upraised redness. The rash appears on the skin in the form of a bulls-eye, where the outer ring looks bright red, with or without a central area.
The classic rash is called "erythema migrans," which is also called erythema chronicum migrans. Most patients can't recall the tick bite–the ticks can be very small in size, as small as the periods in this paragraph. Also, they may not have the identifying rash to signal the doctor. The rash can be very light on the skin, and most of the time, it does not itch at all.
Many patients do not develop a rash. The redness of the skin looks general, but may develop muscle pain and joint stiffness, along with swollen lymph nodes or swollen glands. It also causes mild headache and fever. The symptoms of the disease are similar to a viral fever. The infection grows more painful in two to three days and the rash on skin becomes clearly visible.
Treatment for Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can be easily cured with antibiotics. The particular type of antibiotic used depends on certain stages of the disease.
Early illness is usually treated with medications taken by mouth, for example, doxycycline (Vibramycin), amoxicillin (Amoxil), or cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin). The medicine suits the particular area affected, resulting in a rapid cure for Lyme disease.
If the lyme disease is chronic or persistent then it can be treated with the help of intravenous antibiotics for at least 14 to 20 days. The symptoms would start to improve slowly and this way of treatment would eliminate the infection. However, there is still no known reason as to why some people suffer from joint pain even when the bacteria has been destroyed from the body.
The prevention of lyme disease would mostly involve reducing one’s chances of getting bitten by a tick. Hence follow the below measures to prevent tick bites:
- Ensure that you are fully clothed once you are outdoors. Wear long pants and full-sleeved shirts or t-shirts.
- Be very vigilant especially when there are children playing around. Keep a watch for ticks on the children and pets. If you have been infected once, there are chances it can happen again hence keep the surroundings clean and neat.
- Clear off any wooden or grassy areas in your yard. If there are wooden piles, then ensure it is kept in those areas where is direct exposure to lot of sunlight.
- Usage of insect repellant with ten percent DEET can protect you for at least two hours. However, don’t use insect repellants more than required and it should be kept away from children
- If there is any presence of tick, then you can remove it carefully with the help of tweezers. Ensure that all the ticks have been removed from that part. Also contact your doctor if there has been any instance of tick bite.