Lyme disease is caused due to four main species of bacteria: Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia mayonii, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii bacteria. Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii cause Lyme disease in the United States, while Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii cause of Lyme disease in Europe and Asia. Lyme disease is often transmitted by the bite of an infected black-legged tick, which is known as a deer tick.
You may get Lyme disease if you spend your time in grassy and heavily wooded areas where the ticks carrying the disease thrive. It’s very important to take common-sense precautions in areas where ticks are prevalent. Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease. Generally, recovery will be faster and more complete the sooner treatment begins.
What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?
A small and red bump appears at the site of a tick bite and resolves over a few days. Don’t worry this is very normal after a tick bite and does not indicate Lyme disease. However, the following symptoms may occur within a month after you’ve been infected:
- Erythema migrans: Some people develop this rash at more than one part of their bodies.
- Rash: 3- 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area will appear that clears in the center, forming a bull’s-eye pattern. The rash expands slowly over days and can spread to 12 inches across. It is not itchy or painful.
- Flu-like symptoms: Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache can accompany rash.
If left untreated, new signs of Lyme infection will appear in the following weeks to months. These signs can include:
- Joint pain: Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling will affect your knees; however, the pain can shift from one joint to another.
- Erythema migrans appearing in other areas of your body.
- Neurological problems: weeks, months or even years after infection, you may develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain, temporary paralysis of one side of your face, numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.
Signs that caused due to the bacterium Borrelia mayonii may also include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diffuse rashes
Less common symptoms
Many weeks after infection, some people may develop:
- Eye inflammation
- Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat. Heart problems last more than a few days or weeks.
- Liver inflammation (hepatitis).
- Severe fatigue.
How to Treat Lyme Disease?
- Oral antibiotics: These are the standard treatment for early-stage Lyme disease. They usually include doxycycline for adults and children older than 8, or amoxicillin or cefuroxime for adults, younger children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. A 14- to 21-day course of antibiotics is often recommended; however, some studies suggest that courses lasting 10- 14 days are equally effective.
- Intravenous antibiotics: If the disease involves the central nervous system, your doctor will recommend treatment with an intravenous antibiotic for 14 -28 days. This is very effective in eliminating infection; however, it may take some time to recover from your symptoms. – Intravenous antibiotics can cause side effects, including a lower white blood cell count, mild to severe diarrhea, or colonization.
After treatment, some people still have some symptoms, such as muscle aches and fatigue. The cause of these continuing symptoms which is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, is still unknown, and treating with more antibiotics doesn’t help. Therefore, some experts believe that certain people who get Lyme disease are predisposed to develop an autoimmune response that contributes to their symptoms.
- The Food and Drug Administration warns the use of bismacine, which is an injectable compound prescribed by some alternative medicine practitioners to treat Lyme disease. Bismacine, which is also called chromacine, contains high levels of the metal bismuth. Bismuth is safely used in some oral medications for stomach ulcers, but it’s not approved for use in injectable form or as a treatment for Lyme disease. Bismacine will cause bismuth poisoning, which may lead to heart and kidney failure.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease?
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid areas that deer ticks live, such as wooded, bushy areas with long grass. You can decrease the risk of getting Lyme disease with some simple precautions:
- Cover up: If you spend time on wooded or grassy areas, wear shoes, long pants tucked into your socks, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat and gloves. Try to avoid walking through low bushes and long grass.
- Use insect repellents. Apply insect repellent with a 20% concentration of DEET to your skin. Parents need to apply repellant to their children, avoiding their hands, eyes and mouth. Remember that chemical repellents can be toxic.
- Do your best to tick-proof your yard. You should clear brush and leaves where ticks live. Keep woodpiles in sunny areas.
- Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. Be vigilant after spending time in wooded or grassy areas.
- Shower as soon as you come indoors. Ticks will remain on your skin for hours before attaching themselves. Showering might remove unattached ticks.
- Don’t assume you’re immune. There is a possibility of getting Lyme disease more than once.
Remove a tick as soon as possible with tweezers. Don’t squeeze or crush the tick, but pull steadily. Once you’ve removed the entire tick, dispose of it and apply antiseptic to the bite area.