Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, which you can get if an infected deer tick (also called black-legged tick) bites you. Ordinary “wood ticks” and “dog ticks” don’t carry the infection.
The symptoms of Lyme disease vary. They usually show up in stages. But the stages can overlap. And some people don’t have symptoms of the typical early stage.
▪︎ Stage 1
Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually happen within 3 to 30 days after a tick bite. This stage of disease has a limited set of symptoms. This is called early localized disease.
A rash is a common sign of Lyme disease. But it doesn’t always happen. The rash is usually a single circle that slowly spreads from the site of the tick bite. It may become clear in the center and look like a target or bull’s-eye. The rash often feels warm to the touch, But it’s usually not painful or itchy.
Other stage 1 symptoms include:
• Extreme tiredness.
• Joint stiffness.
• Muscle aches and pains.
• Swollen lymph nodes.
▪︎ Stage 2
Without treatment, Lyme disease can get worse. The symptoms often show up within 3 to 10 weeks after a tick bite. Stage 2 is often more serious and widespread. It is called early disseminated disease.
Stage 2 may include the stage 1 symptoms and the following:
• Many rashes on other parts of the body.
• Neck pain or stiffness.
• Muscle weakness on one or both sides of the face.
• Immune-system activity in heart tissue that causes irregular heartbeats.
• Pain that starts from the back and hips and spreads to the legs.
• Pain, numbness or weakness in the hands or feet.
• Painful swelling in tissues of the eye or eyelid.
• Immune-system activity in eye nerves that causes pain or vision loss.
▪︎ Stage 3
In the third stage, you may have symptoms from the earlier stages and other symptoms. This stage is called late disseminated disease.
In the United States, the most common condition of this stage is arthritis in large joints, particularly the knees. Pain, swelling or stiffness may last for a long time. Or the symptoms may come and go. Stage 3 symptoms usually begin 2 to 12 months after a tick bite.
The type of Lyme disease common in Europe can cause a skin condition called acrodermatitis chronic atrophicans. The skin on the backs of the hands and tops of the feet get discolored and swell. It also may show up over the elbows and knees. More-serious cases may cause damage to tissues or joints.
This skin condition may show up many months to many years after a tick bite.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (and rarely, Borrelia mayonii).
B. burgdorferi is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick.
Risk Factors –
People who work outdoors are at an elevated risk of Lyme disease, including those who work in –
• park or wildlife management
Some people with Lyme disease report symptoms that continue after treatment. These longer-lasting symptoms may include –
• Arthritis that begins with Lyme disease and doesn’t improve.
• Body aches and pains.
• Constant or frequent tiredness.
• Memory complaints.
If you live where Lyme disease is common, the rash might be enough for a diagnosis.
A diagnosis usually depends on the following –
• A review of all signs and symptoms.
• A history of known or possible exposure to ticks.
• Blood tests to find disease-fighting antibodies to the bacteria.
Lyme disease is best treated in the early stages. Treatment for early localized disease is a simple 10- to 14-day course of oral antibiotics to eliminate the infection.
Medications 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 people who are breastfeeding
Intravenous (IV) antibiotics are used for some forms of Lyme disease, including those with cardiac or central nervous system (CNS) involvement.
After improvement and to finish the course of treatment, healthcare professionals will typically switch to an oral regimen. The complete course of treatment usually takes 14 to 28 days.
Lyme arthritis, a late-stage symptom of Lyme disease that may present in some people, is treated with oral antibiotics for 28 days.
The following tips can help you avoid tick bites –
• To repel ticks, you may want to spray your clothing with permethrin, an insecticide commonly found in lawn and garden stores. Insect repellents that contain a chemical called DEET can also be applied to clothing or directly onto your skin. Don’t overuse it.
• Minimize skin exposure to both ticks and insect repellents by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts that fit tightly at the ankles and wrists.
• Wear a hat, tuck your pant legs into socks and wear shoes that leave no part of your feet exposed.
• Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to detect ticks.
• Walk in the center of trails to avoid picking up ticks from overhanging grass and brush.
• After outdoor activities in an “at risk” area, always do a tick check and then shower, scrubbing with a washcloth.
• Get rid of any ticks on your clothes by putting them in the dryer for 15 minutes. This will kill any ticks attached to the clothes by drying them out.
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