What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness, and its occurrences are prevalent in the Midwest and woodland areas.
This infectious disease is caused by a bacterial infection contracted from a tick bite. Specifically, the Ixodes tick, also known as a “deer tick” or “black-legged tick.” This tick bite spreads the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria into the bloodstream, causing infection and flu-like symptoms and illness.
For many, Lyme disease is a type of illness that can bring a lot of anxiety and fear because all it takes is one bite to potentially be infected. In the United States alone, it is estimated that over 300,000 individuals are diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease every year.
According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, about 10-20 percent of people experience long-term side effects from the contraction of Lyme disease; this is known as “post-Lyme disease syndrome.”
Side effects include long-term fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and cognitive changes. Many individuals who experience post-Lyme disease syndrome report short-term memory loss and difficulty with concentration, speech, and mobility. These side effects also extend to children as many parents have reported psychological changes, such as increased nightmares, higher instances of anger, and depression.
“Neurologic Lyme disease” occurs when the bacterial infection affects the peripheral and central nervous system. This can cause facial palsy (partial paralysis of the facial muscles), visual changes, extreme pain/tingling in the arms and legs, and meningitis.
For some, severe symptoms can occur months to years after the infection. These include dizziness, shooting pain, and numbness in the arms and legs. Some develop a brain disorder known as encephalopathy, with symptoms of memory loss and sleep disturbances. Symptoms can be as vague and mild as fatigue, and nonspecific such as a general malaise.
Spring & Summertime Precautions
According to the CDC, states with the highest occurrence of Lyme disease include Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Midwest states.
If you are traveling or live in these areas, take extra precautions. The Spring season is when ticks are increasingly active in grassy and wooded areas.
The CDC recommended guidelines include the following:
– Keep your yards and shrubs maintained and trimmed
– Wear light-colored pants and gear when camping, hunting, gardening, or even walking your dog
– Treat all clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin
– Use EPA registered insect repellents such as DEET
– Avoid high grass and bushy areas and walk at the center of trails
– Check and examine clothing, gear, and pets upon destination arrival
– Launder clothes in hot water to kill any ticks that may have latched on
For a comprehensive guide, visit CDC Lyme Disease Guide.
Symptoms and Treatment
Getting diagnosed with Lyme disease can catch many individuals by surprise, especially when the initial tick bite has gone unnoticed. The tick bite’s early signs and symptoms can vary from 3 days to 30 days.
Common symptoms include discomfort at the site of infection and signs of fatigue, muscle weakness, and joint pain. For most, a classic “bulls-eye” rash will appear at the site of infection, expanding gradually over the course of 2 weeks.
(image from CDC.gov)
For some, later complications such as Neurologic Lyme Disease, Erythema migrans rash, Lyme Carditis, and Lyme Arthritis can occur months to years later.
The earlier treatment begins, the better when it comes to Lyme disease.
Because it is a bacterial infection, initial treatment to eliminate the infection with. oral antibiotics is imperative.
Blood tests may be performed (weeks later) to evaluate the presence of antibodies, and different drugs may be recommended to treat specific complications such as facial paralysis, migraine, and muscle pain.
Given the complexity of how Lyme disease can affect the body, from the brain to the nervous system, a tailored approach to treatment is always recommended.
Living with Lyme Disease
Contracting an illness is never an easy challenge, and when it comes to Lyme disease, short-term and long-term recovery takes a dedicated holistic approach. Working with a dedicated team of healthcare professionals is a great way to get the support you need. And as always, committing to a reduction in stress and an increase in nutrient-dense food is a sure way to give the body the fuel it needs to heal.
A message from Dr. Kandel
“Because symptoms may be experienced both immediately and months or years following an infection, it is important to stay vigilant. And it is essential to monitor your symptoms, keeping a careful diary of how they present and how they evolve over time. Patients may require a comprehensive team approach to include primary care, Infectious Disease, Rheumatology, immunology, as well as neurology in treating this insidious disorder. As always, the best treatment is prevention!“
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Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
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