What is Lyme Disease?
May 28, 2018
May 28, 2018
Lyme disease is a terrible thing to deal with. Transmitted through insect bites, Lyme disease can turn a small problem into a much larger one. Despite its prevalence, very few people seem to know what, exactly, Lyme disease is. With the population of ticks continuing to grow across the United States, now is a good time to learn about the life-changing problem they can cause.
What is Lyme Disease?
While we can easily deal with insect bites at Rapid Med, Lyme disease is a much larger problem. It is particularly prevalent in the summer when insects are on the prowl. However, the problem doesn’t fade with the heat. Lyme disease is a life-altering illness, which requires constant care to be kept in check. If you know anyone with Lyme disease, you know just how nasty it can be.
We’ve discussed the issues that bugs can cause in the past. It’s important to note, though, that ticks can cause much more than itchiness. If you ever find a tick on you, it is important that you get checked out as soon as possible. The slope with bugs is slippery and often underestimated. Remember that it is always best to seek a doctor when in doubt. If anything that has happened that can cause issues like this, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later.
How Ticks Transmit Lyme Disease
In 2016, there were more than 36,000 reported cases of Lyme disease. This number has been on the uptick since 2004 and continues to grow with the tick population. The CDC also estimates that more than 300,000 cases of Lyme disease go unreported each year. The illness is spreading like wildfire… but how does it do it?
Well, obviously ticks are a huge part of the equation. However, they aren’t the only part of the equation. When Lyme disease is transmitted from a tick, it is because the tick is also infected. The bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is the true culprit behind Lyme disease. It is most common among black-legged and deer ticks.
After the initial bite, symptoms of Lyme disease often lay dormant. It can take anywhere between 3 and 30 days for symptoms of Lyme disease to begin to show. Because of this, it is important to watch for symptoms for a great while after removal of a tick.
The risk of Lyme disease increases with time. In the case of black-legged ticks, it takes between 36 and 48 hours for the disease to be transmitted. This is why it’s important to check for ticks immediately after any trip into wooded areas. If you can remove the tick within that timespan, your risk is significantly decreased.
The Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Early in a case of Lyme disease, sufferers will experience a plethora of symptoms, many of which can be easily mistaken for common sicknesses. Fever, chills, headache, and fatigue are all common symptoms of Lyme disease that are also found in patients with influenza. Worse symptoms include muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes — unfortunately, these are also common in patients with the flu.
For most, the telltale sign of Lyme disease is a very unique rash. An early symptom of up to 80% of patients, this rash grows rapidly. Over the period of a few days, it can grow to be a full foot long. It can appear on any part of the body and is rarely painful. However, the rash is normally warm to the touch. In 20-30% of patients, the rash will take on a distinct “bull’s-eye look.” The rash will have a distinct outer ring and inner circle, giving the appearance of a dart board.
Without proper treatment, symptoms of Lyme disease will grow much worse. Rashes may begin to appear in different parts of the body and continue to spread over time. Severe headaches, migraines, and neck stiffness are all common symptoms. Loss of muscle tone is common, as well as shooting pain and numbness in extremities. Arthritis, especially of the knees, may come to fruition or flare up, often causing severe joint pain. Finally, Lyme disease can lead to a heart palpitation, or otherwise irregular heartbeat.
The Treatment of Lyme Disease
During early stages of Lyme disease, treatment is often carried out through antibiotics. It is common for patients to be prescribed doxycycline for 10 days to 3 weeks. 2 to 3 weeks of amoxicillin or cefuroxime might also be in order. Antibiotics cure more than 90% of cases. Those that aren’t cured by antibiotics, unfortunately, will only receive treatment for symptoms. Beyond the early stages, there is nothing to be done about Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a horrible thing, and prevention is the best cure. If you are in a tick-infested area, please be sure to check your body for ticks. Remember that they can be as small as a poppy seed — close inspection is necessary.