Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted by a black-legged tick (alternatively called the deer tick) when it bites you and stays stuck for 36 – 48 hours. Removing the tick within and before that period reduces the likelihood of an infection.
If you get infected, the bacteria affects numerous organs after traveling through the bloodstream. Without early treatment, the disease morphs into inflammatory conditions that can afflict several systems. The joints, skin, and nervous system are affected first before it invades other organs later on.
The type of tick that bites you, how long it was attached, and the location that it bit, all determine whether or not there is a chance of infection. Infections are most common in the Northeastern and the upper Midwestern United States, although all states report cases and a few other parts of the world do too.
Categories of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is categorized by the types of bacteria that cause it. This is not to be confused with the stages of Lyme disease, including early localized Lyme, early disseminated Lyme, and late disseminated Lyme.
That being said, it is important to note that Lyme disease symptoms do not subside in about 10% of people who have undergone treatment. Instead, they may exhibit four core symptoms (fatigue, joint or muscle pain, confusion, or short-term memory loss) in what is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Lyme Disease
Symptoms manifest as early as 3 days after a bite or as late as 30 days. They can differ depending on the stage of infection. In a few cases, symptoms don’t manifest until months after the bite. The early ones include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle and joint pain
All these symptoms are typical of the flu too. Lyme disease has a distinct rash, in most cases, as one of the primary symptoms. The rash will sometimes look like a bull-eye that’s circular around the middle, though it will usually be circular, red, and 2 inches wide (at the very least). It also gradually expands over days and can grow to about 12 inches. It could be warm to the touch, with no pain or itchiness, and appears on any body part. Without medication, symptoms may get worse. Severe symptoms include:
- Neck stiffness
- Intense headache
- Rashes covering other body parts
- ‘Drooping’ on both or one side(s) of the face
- Arthritis with swelling and joint pain, especially in the knees
- Irregular heartbeat
- Inflammation in the spinal cord or brain
- Tingling or shooting pain
- Numbness in the feet
Lyme disease is diagnosed by a doctor. It is dependent on the symptoms and whether there was known exposure to a tick. Blood work is also a possible way to find out, though it may be negative in the first few weeks as the antibodies take weeks to manifest.
How to Treat Lyme Disease
For early-stage Lyme disease, antibiotics are normally taken from around 10 days to three weeks. The most common ones are cefuroxime, amoxicillin, and doxycycline, which eliminate the infection most of the time. In the event that they don’t, another set of antibiotics is administered by shot or orally.
Without treatment, you may exhibit more severe symptoms. An irregular heartbeat and weakened facial muscles, for instance, may need antibiotics for treatment. Meningitis, more severe heart problems and inflammation in the spinal cord and brain may also require antibiotics.
A doctor may prescribe antibiotics either through a shot or by mouth for late-stage Lyme disease and also arthritis treatment if you acquire it. Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, on the other hand, has no treatment.
How to Manage Lyme Disease
You can successfully live with and overcome Lyme disease by getting prompt treatment after getting diagnosed. With proper treatment, any existing damage should heal after a few months. Some examples include:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Reducing the amount of stress in your life
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes and three times a week
- Eating a healthy diet
- Limiting your sugar intake
Take measures that prevent re-infection too, like wearing socks and long pants in areas covered by fallen leaves.
- Who is most likely to get Lyme disease? Boys who are 15 or younger and men aged 40 to 60 most commonly get Lyme disease. These age groups are more susceptible due to their higher probability of playing outdoors, camping, hiking, and hunting. Older adults also love backyard work and backyards are renowned tick infestation areas. Most Lyme disease infections in older adults occur from their backyard.
- Can only men get Lyme Disease? No, both men and women can get Lyme Disease. Symptoms in women are in fact more severe than in men.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!