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Lyme Disease - Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on September 17, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.

Tick

Source

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection (bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi), is caused by an infected tick. The number of cases in the United States each year is 329,000 people. This disease is sometimes difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are similar to the flu and other diseases. Lab tests do not always give a clear result until you have been infected with Lyme disease for several weeks.

Ticks can bite anywhere on your body. The areas that are often bitten are the hard-to-see areas: the scalp, groin or in the armpits. Ticks are extremely small and not easy to see. Therefore, people often do not know they have been bitten.

Red Flags Associated with Tick Bites

Lyme Disease Symptoms

The symptoms of this disease include:

  • Red rash (this may look like a bull’s eye)
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue

The red rash is often the first sign of Lyme disease, and it occurs approximately 8 days after being bitten. If you notice a tick bite and have any flu-like symptoms you should see your doctor. Lyme disease is diagnosed by finding antibodies in the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid.

The CDC recommends a two-step testing process for Lyme disease, but one blood draw is adequate, although it is only accurate approximately 65% of the time. If the first test is negative, no further test is recommended. If the test is positive, then the second test is done. If the second test is positive that result means the patient has been affected with Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Cycle

Source

Treatment

Lyme disease is usually cured with antibiotics. The recovery will be better if your treatment begins quickly. The antibiotics prescribed are doxycycline, cefuroxime axetil and amoxicillin is taken from 10 to 21 days. This is the treatment for adults and children. There is no Lyme disease vaccine at this time.

Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) may occur for some patients. You may have muscle or joint pain, plus nervous system symptoms after completing the typical antibiotic course for Lyme disease. Antibodies can remain in the blood for months and sometimes years. Difficulty thinking is another complaint that may last for up to six months.

Untreated Lyme disease can spread to the heart, the joints and the nervous system. Severe headaches, neck aches, facial palsy, palpitations, arthritis and severe joint pain.

It is possible to develop inflammation of the membranes that surround your brain, and that may cause Bell’s Palsy (one side of your face will be temporarily paralyised). You may also have weakness and numbness in your extremities and impaired muscle movement.

U.S. Areas of Tick Infestation

Source

Preventing Lyme Disease

There is a proper way to remove a tick.

  1. “Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.”

There are several ways to prevent Lyme disease and they include:

  • Use insect repellent that had 20% or a higher concentration of DEET
  • Remove any tick quickly
  • Apply pesticides
  • Avoid areas where deer ticks live
  • Mow grass regularly and remove leaves and brush from your yard

Being on the golf course is another way to be at risk for a tick. Pets that go outdoors can easily acquire a tick, so they need to be checked, particularly in hot weather.

Lyme disease is not believed to be transmitted with sexual contact or through breast milk. During pregnancy if you are bitten it is important to get immediate treatment as this bacteria can infect the placenta and possibly cause stillbirth.

Lone star ticks that live in the southeast do not transmit Lyme disease but they can carry other diseases.

What Does Lyme Disease Do to the Body?

Final Thoughts

This vector-borne disease has grown in numbers over the past several years. It is important to check your children and pets carefully for tick bites when they are playing out in the woods or any place where ticks may be a problem. Early treatment is important to shorten the length of this illness.

Lyme Disease Experience

Have you or anyone in your family had Lyme disease?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

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  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    3 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

    We live in a high risk area, SE Pennsylvania, and try to be vigilant with our yard and with giving monthly flea and tick medicine to our two sweet dogs.

    This information is invaluable and timely - thank you, dear Pam.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lora, I am so glad you found this aticle so informative. I didn't know about ehrlichiosis, but I knew ticks could cause other diseases beside just Lyme disease. I agree that removing the tick in an appropriate way is important. I appreciate your comments.

  • Lora Hollings profile image

    Lora Hollings 

    3 weeks ago

    With climate change, you and your pets are at greater risk for tick bites especially in areas with high tick infestation. Lyme disease is very serious and the emphasis has to be on prevention and early treatment. I found your article, Pamela, very educational on what you need to do if you find a tick on yourself or your pet. Many people don't know the proper way to remove and dispose of ticks. This article tells us the best methods for dealing with this situation which I found to be very helpful. Another thing to remember for those of us who have pets is to use a product like frontline, or advantage which you can easily apply to your pet to prevent them from getting ticks that are dangerous to them and to you. Dogs can also get a disease called ehrlichiosis from a tick bite and if left untreated, it can cause serious illness. That is why treating your pets during the warm weather is so important. This is a great article with so much good information. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, I am sorry to hear abot the friend of your parents. I certainly agree about catching this disease early. I appreciate your comments about the article.

    I thoght of you this morning when I saw the flooding in Houston and I hope you are not affected.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

    A good friend of my parents contracted Lyme Disease and he had long-term effects from it. If not caught early, it is a nasty disease. Good article!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi John, It is possible that the ticks don't carry the Lyme disease bacteria, at least that is what I found when I tried to find information about Australia.

    I am sorry to hear that your wife has fibromyalgia. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    3 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

    I found this very interesting, Pamela. Lyme disease has many symptoms in common with fibromyalgia which my wife suffers from. The Australian Government will not admit that Lyme disease is present in Australia, however, we have a friend who paid $8000 to have her blood sent overseas to be tested..and it returned positive for Lyme disease. She had been diagnosed as suffering fibromyalgia previously.

    Ticks are very prevalent in Australia and almost everyone I know would have been bitten more than once.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, I don't think there are a large number of cases in the UK, but I didn'y get any exact statistics. I appreciate your comments.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    4 weeks ago from UK

    This is a very informative article. In the UK we are now hearing more about cases of Lyme disease.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Good afternoon Eric, No problem. Have a good day and thanks for dropping by.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ms Dora, I think it is good to know about symptoms of various diseases so we don't ignore some signs or symptoms. Thank you so much for your generous comments.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for the information, including symptoms and treatment. Good to know though I hope that I never experience the disease. Good research and presentation.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Excuse me Pamela - I meant to say she "looked" like she had cancer.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, Your pastor sure received some awful nes. I think I would rather have Lymd disease than ALS. I pray he will receive wuality care. Thank you for your comments, Linda.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ruby, I remember my first injection as a nurse also, and I was also very nervous. It wasn't the same as injecting grapefruits in class. I appreciate you very nice comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Doris, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is an awful disease too. I am glad you found the article interesting. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric. Having cancer from Lyme disease would be awful. I hope that is not true. Thanks you again for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I'm glad you never that Lyme disease. Your comments are appreciated.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I've never had Lyme disease and hope I never do. Thanks once again for sharing the information and your knowledge.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Great article on a really oogie subject. Lived on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire a bit and they were a real problem. Interestingly I lived just a bit from Lyme Hampshire - no relation I am told ;-) I knew one gal who looked like she had bad cancer from the disease. Yykes.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    4 weeks ago from Beautiful South

    This is interesting, Pamela, since in Arkansas we are cautioned against both Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I've never known anyone with Lyme Disease, but a neighbor of my sons nearly died from Rocky Mount spotted fever. He had AIDS, and the doctors didn't take his symptoms seriously until it was nearly too late.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    4 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

    Another useful article and well researched. Thank goodness I've not had Lyme disease nor anyone in my family. I remember when I first started my nursing, I cared for a mas who was diagnosed with tick fever, and he was the first patient to receive an injection from me, needless to say that I was nervous...

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

    Pamela, thusfar all members of my family have escaped--we are tick-free. Our Pastor and his physician thought he had Lyme as he was experiencing some facial palsy and speech problems. Sadly he ultimately received a diagnosis of ALS.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I'll bet you did see plenty of ticks while picking berries. I doubt Arizona has many ticks at all, so you have a wonderful place to hike. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • lindacee profile image

    Linda Chechar 

    4 weeks ago from Arizona

    I remember picking summer berries in the south as a child. The ticks seemed to be everywhere. Fortunately there wasn't Lyme disease at the time. I've been living in Arizona for the last four years and have lived in the mountains and high desert areas. I have been hiking a lot and haven't seen any ticks on my dog or myself luckily.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, Dogs do require some inspection, but the ticks that you found may not carry Lyme disease. I don't think you are in one of the areas that has much Lyme disease. So, enjoy your walks without worry. I appreciate your comments. Have a great day Bill!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Mel, Then, you know quite well that these ticks can attach and you don't always feel them. At least you found them early. It sounds like staying in the beautiful west is perfect for you.

    Thanks for your comments, Mel.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Shauna, I haven't seen a tick in a long time either, but I have used tweezer and pulled a few off of my boys when they were young. I appreciate your comments.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    4 weeks ago from Central Florida

    Pamela, this is very informative. Fortunately, I haven't seen a tick since I was a little girl living in PA.

  • Mel Carriere profile image

    Mel Carriere 

    4 weeks ago from San Diego California

    As somebody who discovered, to my great horror, that I had two ticks clinging to my body while taking a shower, this is a topic that hits home. Fortunately my wife removed the little bloodsuckers and I never got the disease. This was in Tennessee, where we were vacationing. Here in the west I have never been host to a tick, as far as I know, but it is one more reason to stay in the lovely, arid western United States. Great article.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    Our dogs picked up a couple ticks this spring...nasty buggers they are. I don't think I've ever known anyone with Lyme Disease. Hopefully I won't be the first in my circle of friends. :) Have a great Wednesday, Pamela!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Vivian, Sorry to make you paranoid about ticks, but the knowledge is a good thing. The symptoms of this disease can go on quite some time even after treatment. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Noelle7 profile image

    Vivian Coblentz 

    4 weeks ago

    I've heard people say they suffer from Lyme disease, so I'm wondering how it was left untreated for so long when it could have been cured early on. Maybe they blamed symptoms on the flu or something.

    I shouldn't have read this until after I got back from my walk today because now I'm going to be paranoid ticks are falling on me, LOL!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna, I agree that the change in the weather would increase the tick population, which has increased the number of people with Lyme disease. I appreciate your comments.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    4 weeks ago

    Such an interesting article Pamela and I wasn't aware of the severity of Lyme disease if left untreated. We did have an issue with ticks when we lived in Italy, so we stayed away from the long grass and areas where they were prevalent during the summer months. With climate change affecting our weather I imagine it will also increase the insect population.

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