Lime disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black legged ticks.
Black legged ticks or other species of ticks can carry these bacteria. They can pick up the bacteria when they bite a deer or mice that are infected with the bacteria. This is then transferred to humans when the tick bites them.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America and Europe. It is a rapidly spreading infectious disease with approximately 30,000 new cases being reported to the CDC every year.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of cases being reported, as the tick population increases. Warming temperatures have made regions like Canada, Minnesota more hospitable. Deforestation for constructing houses has made humans be in closer contact with ticks and animals which carry them, like deer.
With such a prevalence of Lyme disease, it is important to know what are the signs and symptoms so that you are able to recognize it and get appropriate medical attention.
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Untreated Lyme disease can display a range of symptoms. These symptoms might occur in stages, i.e. within 30 days of the tick bite and then after 30 days. Lyme disease can be categorized into stages as early localized disease, early disseminated disease and late disseminated disease.
Early Localised Disease: (Stage 1)
This stage occurs when the infection hasn’t yet spread to other parts of the body and is restricted to only the affected area. The symptoms experienced during this stage are similar to a cold or flu:
- Fever and chill
- Muscle and Joint Pain
- Feeling unwell
- Erythema Migrans (EM) Rash
EM rash, or bull’s eye rash is flat or slightly raised red spot on the area of tick bite. It begins in about 7 days after the bite, although the time period can range from 3 to 30 days.
The rash keeps expanding gradually, expanding up to 12 inches. It is usually not painful or itchy, although may feel a bit warm to touch.
If left untreated, the rash can continue for about 4 weeks or more.
Early Disseminated Disease: (Stage 2)
Weeks or months after the infection started, it can spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream. The signs of this stage are:
- Numbness or pain in the nerve area
- Sensitivity to light
- Paralysis or weakness in the facial muscles
- Stiffness in neck
- Heart problems like abnormal heart rhythms, skipped heartbeats or chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath
- Sudden mood changes
- Emergence of EM rashes in random parts of the body
- In rare cases, altered mental state
Late Disseminated Disease: (Stage 3)
Signs indicating the onset of third stage can occur months or years after the infection starts. This is the stage when the disease has completely spread to each and every part of the body. The symptoms experienced in this stage are severe and can be disabling and sometimes permanent.
Signs of the third stage include:
- Lyme arthritis which affects the knees although, it can affect other joints like shoulders, ankles, elbows. The pain is usually mild but there might be a swelling.
- Increase in the EM rashes which start to appear on more parts of the body
- Abnormal muscle movement
- Bladder disorders
- Insomnia and inability to sleep due to pain in various areas of the body
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Shooting pains from the spinal cord
- Muscle weakness, especially in legs
- Speech difficulties
- Cognitive problems, including an inability to think properly
- Problems with short term memory
- Episodes of dizziness and shortness of breath
- Lyme carditis which includes irregular heartbeats or heart palpitations
Treatment for Lyme Diseases
If the right antibiotics are provided at an early stage, Lyme disease can be completely eliminated and people are cured most of the time .
Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. Patients with certain neurological or cardiac diseases may require intravenous treatment with drugs such as ceftriaxone or penicillin.
Prevention from Ticks
To prevent contracting the Lyme disease, you have to protect yourself from ticks so that they don’t bite you.
Be careful during warmer months as it is during this time that ticks are commonly found.
Do not go hiking into areas with tall grass or woods during summers. If you do go hiking, remember to cover yourself by wearing full sleeves shirt and long pants with the pants firmly tucked inside the socks so as to avoid any exposure.
Spray insect repellent on your body as well as your clothing.
Wear light colored clothing so that any ticks on your clothes can be easily spotted.
After reaching home, check all your clothing and body thoroughly. Take a bath as soon as possible to remove any unseen ticks. Wash your scalp properly.
Put your clothes in a hot dryer to kill any pests that may have clung on to it.
How to Remove Ticks
If you find a tick attached to your body, here is how you can remove it:
Never, ever use your fingers to remove the tick.
Use tweezers to grasp the tick close to its head or mouth. You can use a paper towel, if needed.
Pull it out in a steady motion.
Do not crush or squeeze the tick.
If a part of the tick remains in your skin, try removing it with tweezers. If it cannot be removed, go to the hospital.
After it’s out, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Remember to wash your hand too.
Put the tick in a jar. If you notice any symptoms of Lyme’s disease, go to the hospital, taking the jar with you.