Lyme disease: Everything you need to know

Lyme disease, also known as borreliosis, is a potentially fatal infection caused by bacteria transmitted by black-legged ticks to people.

In the United States, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infectious disease. Ticks pick up Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria from mice and deer and transmit it to people through bites.

A rash may emerge at first and then fade away without therapy. Complications of Lyme disease can impair the joints, heart, and neurological system over time.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a total of 23,558 confirmed Lyme disease cases. Pennsylvania had the highest rate.

Symptoms

 Lyme disease

Early symptoms of Lyme disease are usually extremely modest. Some people may not experience any symptoms at all, or they may mistake them for the flu.

Stage 1: Early Lyme disease

Erythema migrans is a rash that usually arises 3–30 days after the infection has started.

The rash appears in 70–80% of Lyme disease patients and includes the following symptoms:

  • may lose its color in the center, giving it a bull’s-eye appearance
  • usually starts at the site of the tick bite, though it can appear elsewhere as the bacteria spread
  • is not painful or itchy but may be warm to the touch
  • typically begins as a small red area that expands over several days
  • ultimately reaches a diameter of 12 inches, or about 30 centimeters

The rash may or may not be visible, depending on the tone of a person’s skin.

Stage 2: Later symptoms

After a tick bite, other symptoms may take months to appear. They are as follows:

  • muscle, tendon, and bone pain
  • nerve pain
  • shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • heart palpitations
  • headaches
  • neck stiffness
  • additional rashes
  • facial palsy — a loss of muscle tone in one or both sides of the face
  • arthritis and swelling in the joints

Without therapy, these symptoms may fade away in a few weeks or months. Some people, however, develop chronic Lyme disease and experience long-term symptoms.

Recurrent episodes of arthritis with considerable swelling, especially in the major joints, affect about 60% of people who do not receive therapy for the disease.

Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome

Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, often known as persistent Lyme disease, affects certain people who have received therapy for the disease.

Nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue and joint pain, can last for months after treatment is completed.

Antibiotics are unlikely to be of assistance in this situation. Rather, the treatment tries to alleviate the symptoms, which will eventually go away. Rest and anti-inflammatory drugs could be part of a treatment plan.

Transmission

Lyme disease bacteria enter the body through the bite of an infected black-legged tick in the United States.

The adult or nymph tick bores a small hole in the skin and slips its mouth into the opening, attaching itself to the host.

Ticks like to attach themselves to regions that are difficult to view, such as the scalp, armpits, and groin.

To transmit bacteria, they must be adhered to the skin for at least 36–48 hours. Adult ticks are larger and easier to spot, and most people can remove them quickly. Young ticks, on the other hand, are hardly visible and may go overlooked.

Is person-to-person transmission possible?

No. Lyme disease cannot spread:

  • through air, food, or water
  • from pets to humans
  • between humans

It is not transmitted by lice, mosquitoes, fleas, or flies.

Breastfeeding and pregnancy

Lyme disease during pregnancy has been associated to developmental abnormalities or fetal death in a few small studies. More research will be required to confirm this.

Breastfeeding has not been reported to be a source of transmission. During therapy, however, a doctor may advise that you discontinue nursing.

Treatment for Lyme disease during pregnancy necessitates a different sort of antibiotic.

Diagnosis

Anyone who develops a rash after being bitten by a tick should seek medical help right once.

Prepare a description of the potential exposure. This could include, for example, a recent hike in a tick-infested area.

If a tick is removed, a photo should be taken and the type researched.

It’s important noting that people with Lyme disease who don’t get treatment right away may develop more severe symptoms. Years later, they may reappear.

Treatment

Even if a person has been exposed to a tick in an area where Lyme disease is frequent, therapy can begin before the disease is confirmed.

If the bacteria are present, this is known as preventive treatment, and it can prevent Lyme disease from developing.

Treatment should begin as soon as possible, and antibiotics are frequently used. The majority of people who receive treatment early on recover completely and quickly.

Prevention

Avoiding tick bites is the best method to avoid Lyme disease.

Here are some ideas for how to go about it:

  • Dry clothes at high temperatures to kill ticks.
  • Ask a pest control service about how to keep ticks out of the yard.
  • Remove ticks quickly and correctly.
  • Be alert for the symptoms of Lyme disease.
  • Know where ticks are likely to be.
  • Use repellent on the skin, clothing, and hiking or camping gear.
  • Give pets anti-tick treatment.
  • Check all gear, clothes, and pets for ticks after being outdoors.
  • Shower after coming in from outside and check for ticks.

When searching for ticks on the body, make careful to look for:

  • in all areas of hair
  • between the legs
  • around the waist
  • under the arms and behind the knees
  • in and around the ears
  • in the belly button

If a tick is adhered to the skin for less than 24 hours, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease is unlikely to be transmitted.

Conclusion

Lyme disease can develop if a black-legged tick bites you and transmits the B. burgdorferi bacteria.

A rash in the shape of a ring or a bull’s-eye may appear early on. Antibiotic treatment is frequently successful.

Later complications, such as joint pain, may necessitate a different therapy.

Sources:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4443866/
  • https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/wicworks/Topics/FG/Chapter3_Breastfeeding.pdf
  • https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/150479
  • https://medlineplus.gov/lymedisease.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/postlds/
  • https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/tick-bite-prophylaxis.html
  • https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html
  • https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html