Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick that becomes infected after feeding on infected deer, birds, or mice. A tick has to be present on the skin for at least 36 hours to transmit the infection.
Lyme disease was first recognized in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975 and is the most common tick borne illness in Europe and the United States. People who live or spend time in wooded areas known for transmission of the disease are more likely to get this illness. People with domesticated animals that visit wooded areas also have a higher risk of getting Lyme disease.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat
- Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
- a flat, circular rash that looks like a red oval or bull’s-eye anywhere on your body
Symptoms in children may occur soon or months and years after the infection. According to studies your child may have Lyme disease and not have the bull’s-eye rash. Symptoms in children may include:
- joint and muscle pain
- other flu-like symptoms
A two-step testing process for Lyme disease is usually recommended. Both steps are required and can be done using the same blood sample. If this first step is negative, no further testing is recommended. If the first step is positive or indeterminate (sometimes called “equivocal”), the second step should be performed. The overall result is positive only when the first test is positive (or equivocal) and the second test is positive (or for some tests equivocal).Antibodies can take several weeks to develop, so patients may test negative if infected only recently.
Antibodies normally persist in the blood for months or even years after the infection is gone; therefore, the test cannot be used to determine cure.
Infection with other diseases, including some tickborne diseases, or some viral, bacterial, or autoimmune diseases, can result in false positive test results.
Lyme disease is best treated in its early stages.Medication used to treat lyme disease include:
- doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime, which are first-line treatments in adults and children
- cefuroxime and amoxicillin, which are used to treat women who are nursing or breastfeeding
One should take the following steps to prevent tick bites:
- Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts when in the outdoors.
- Make your yard unfriendly to ticks by clearing wooded areas, keeping underbrush to a minimum, and putting woodpiles in areas with lots of sun.
- Use insect repellent. One with 10 percent DEET will protect you for about 2 hours. Don’t use more DEET than what’s required for the time you’ll be outside, and don’t use it on the hands of young children or the faces of children under the age of 2 months old.
- Lemon eucalyptus oil gives the same protection as DEET when used in similar concentrations. It shouldn’t be used on children under the age of 3 years old.
- Check your children, pets, and yourself for ticks. If you’ve had Lyme disease, don’t assume you can’t be infected again. You can get Lyme disease more than once.
- Remove ticks with tweezers. Apply the tweezers near the head or the mouth of the tick and pull gently. Check to be certain that all tick parts have been removed.
Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome
This where patients have symptoms of pain, fatigue or difficulty thinking that lasts more than 6 months after finishing their treatment.Reason for post-treatment lyme disease is still unknown however some experts believe that Borrelia burgdorferi can trigger an “auto-immune” response causing symptoms that last well after the infection itself is gone. Auto–immune responses are known to occur following other infections, including campylobacter (Guillain-Barré syndrome), chlamydia (Reiter’s syndrome), and strep throat (rheumatic heart disease).
Other experts hypothesize that PTLDS results from a persistent but difficult to detect infection while others believe that the symptoms of PTLDS are due to other causes unrelated to the patient’s Borrelia burgdorferi infection. Unfortunately, there is no proven treatment for PTLDS but patients with it usually get better over time, although it can take months to feel completely well.