What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease (also called Lyme disease or Borrelia infection) is an infectious disease that can occur after a tick bite. The disease can manifest itself in different ways and cause symptoms from the skin, nervous system, heart or joints. It is estimated that there are approximately 2000-3000 cases of lyme disease in the United States per year.
Borreliosis in the nervous system – called neuroborreliosis – must be reported to the authorities, and therefore it is known that there are approximately 150-180 cases per year. Of these, approximately 30 percent of these cases are seen in children. Neuroborreliosis is thus one of the most frequent bacterial infections of the nervous system in United States.
Why do you get Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by infection with a bacterium (Borrelia burgdoferi) that is transmitted to humans by ticks. The tick is found throughout United States and becomes active at temperatures above 5 C. Thus, the risk of being bitten by a tick is greatest between May and November.
The wood tick mostly sits in tall grass. If you get a tick on you, it will typically migrate to a warm, moist place on your body where the skin is thin. It is often the groin, knees, hems of stockings or armpits, but it can settle anywhere. In children, tick bites are most often seen on the head, behind the ears or on the neck. Once the tick has found a suitable place on your body to settle down, it sticks its sucking proboscis to suck blood.
Some ticks harbor the Borrelia bacteria in their intestines, and when the tick starts sucking blood, the bacteria can be transferred to you with the tick’s saliva. It takes more than 16 hours and often up to 24 hours from the time the tick bites and starts sucking blood until the Borrelia bacteria is transferred. If you have got a tick on you, it is important to remove it as soon as possible (see below).
How big is the risk of becoming infected with the bacteria after a tick bite?
How many of the ticks carry the Borrelia bacteria varies from year to year and depends on which area of United States you are in. We estimate that approximately 15 percent of the ticks in United States harbor the Borrelia bacteria. Even if you are bitten by a tick that harbors the Borrelia bacteria, it is far from certain that you will get symptoms of Lyme disease. Only approximately 2 percent of people who are bitten by infected ticks develop disease.
Borrelia is not contagious between people.
What are the signs and symptoms of lyme Lyme disease?
The first thing you notice is often the tick and some redness of the skin around the tick. However, this does not mean that you have been infected with the Borrelia bacteria. Redness around the bite site is due to irritation from the tick. Some people don’t even realize they’ve been bitten by a tick because it loosens its grip on the skin and falls off when it’s done sucking blood.
Symptoms of lyme disease
A typical symptom of Lyme disease is a growing red rash that spreads in the skin around the site of the tick bite. The skin rash, called erthema migrans, typically appears 3-30 days after the bite. The spot gradually gets bigger and bigger and in some cases gets a pale area in the middle, but this is far from everyone. In rarer cases, Erythema migrans can also appear elsewhere on the body than just where the tick bit, and some people can get many of these red spots.
Along with erythema migrans, there are some who experience symptoms reminiscent of influenza: fatigue, headache, mild fever and joint and muscle pain.
What consequences can infection with the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria have?
In addition to erythema migrans, the Borrelia infection can cause other forms of infection.
Learn about lyme disease symptoms
Neuroborreliosis – risk factors for lyme disease
Symptoms of neuroborreliosis (bacteria that cause lyme disease – Borreliosis in the nervous system) are typically seen 4-8 weeks after the tick bite.
The symptoms often start with burning pain in the back, typically between the shoulder blades and in the neck. The pain often radiates down the spine or from the back into the arms or legs. The pain is often worst at night. There may be a change in the sense of touch in the skin in the painful areas. In order to be able to make the diagnosis with certainty, a spinal cord test must be carried out.
You can get nerve paralysis, the most common being paralysis of the facial nerves (facial paresis). Neuroborreliosis can also present as inflammation of the meninges (meningitis) with fever, headache, fatigue and neck stiffness. This is seen especially in children.
In very rare cases, the disease can become permanent with a slowly progressing destruction of the nervous system with paralysis, hearing loss and affecting the gait. In order to make the diagnosis of neuroborreliosis with certainty, a spinal cord test must be carried out.
Arthritis (Lyme arthritis)
Arthritis is relatively rare after infection with Borrelia disease in the United States. It can come from weeks to months after the infection. Arthritis is manifested by pain and swelling of joints. Most often only a single joint is affected and very rarely more than three joints. The knees are the joints most frequently affected. Then follow the shoulders, elbows, feet and hips. It is similar to having gout symptoms. During treatment, the swelling disappears within one to four weeks, but the symptoms may return after months or years.
Affects of the heart
In rare cases, Lyme disease can manifest as heart inflammation with symptoms of heart rhythm disturbances in the form of dizziness and fainting, and some patients need a pacemaker for a period of time until the infection is treated.
A small blue-violet skin swelling that is approx. 0.5-3 cm in size. In adults, lymphocytoma is most often found on the nipple and in children on the earlobe.
Several years often pass between the infection and the development of this rare phenomenon. It is manifested by permanent skin changes near the place where the tick has bitten. There is slight swelling and bluish or reddish discoloration of the skin.
Stages of lyme – signs of the disease
There are three stages of Lyme disease: early localized, early disseminated, and late disseminated lyme disease. The late stage of Lyme disease can be very serious and may cause permanent damage to the heart, joints, or nervous system.
How does the doctor diagnose Lyme disease?
Often, the history of a tick bite, followed by some of the above symptoms, will be what makes the doctor think of Lyme disease.
Diagnosis and treatment for lyme disease
The doctor makes the diagnosis of erythema migrans based on the medical history and the characteristic appearance of the rash. Measuring antibodies in the blood for Borrelia does not make you any wiser, as only approximately 60 percent of people with erythema migrans will have a positive blood test for Borrelia,
Diagnosis of lyme
To diagnose the other forms of Lyme disease with greater certainty, the doctor can take a blood test. The blood test can show whether you have antibodies against Borrelia in your blood. Antibodies are the body’s antidote to foreign substances. Antibodies can typically be detected two to four weeks after infection, but sometimes it can take up to eight weeks before you have antibodies. This means that you can have an infection with Borrelia, even if the antibody test is negative.
Testing for lyme disease
Conversely, a positive test does not always mean recent infection with Borrelia, as the antibodies remain in the blood for years after the infection has ended. Unfortunately, the antibody test is not a perfect blood test, and so-called false positive results occur quite often. A false positive result is if the antibody test is positive without the person being infected with Borrelia.
If the doctor suspects that you have neuroborreliosis, you will be hospitalized. During hospitalization, an examination of the spinal fluid (spinal fluid) will be carried out to find out whether there is Borrelia in the nervous system.
In joint inflammation and acrodermatitis, the blood test for Lyme disease is almost always positive.
How to treat lyme disease?
Prompt treatment in the early stages (erythema migrans), the treatment of lyme disease will be tablet penicillin for 10 days. If you have developed symptoms from other organ systems, the treatment will be tablet treatment with Doxycycline or, in a few cases, antibiotics in the veins (Injections).
How quickly do you recover?
With prompt and adequate treatment, erythema migrans and thus the disease will usually subside within approximately 14 days. Even without treatment, most cases will go away on their own without leaving lasting scars, but treatment reduces the risk of later symptoms from the nervous system and joints.
If you first have symptoms from the nervous system, joints or heart, it can take months before you recover from the symptoms. The vast majority recover completely, but in some cases the disease leaves behind permanent damage.
Lyme Disease Prevention
Check your body for ticks, or take a hot shower when you get home after a walk in the woods or spending time in nature. Remove the tick as soon as possible and observe the bite site for 4 weeks. If a skin rash develops that grows and becomes larger than 5 cm in diameter, or if you are in doubt as to whether you may have been infected, you must go to the doctor. The doctor will then decide whether there is needed treatment with antibiotics.
Lyme disease transmission
Lyme disease is an infection that is most commonly transmitted through the bite of an infected western blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. Deer ticks are very small, so they can be difficult to see. They are most active in the spring and summer months, when people are more likely to be outdoors. Transmission of Lyme disease can also occur when blood from an infected person enters the body of another person. This can happen through sharing needles or sexual contact. Lyme disease is not spread through casual contact, such as hugging, kissing, or touching someone who is infected.
Remove a tick
Tick must be attached on your skin, there are several ways to remove it. You can use a tick removal tool, which looks like a small metal hook. You can also use tweezers or your fingers. If you use your fingers, make sure you grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Do not twist or pull on the tick, or you may detach its head from its body and leave it embedded in your skin.
Once you’ve removed the tick or parts of the tick, clean the wound with soap and water. Then apply a topical antibiotic to the area to help prevent infection. If you develop any symptoms after removing a tick, such as a rash or fever, see your doctor.
There is no vaccine against Borreliosis.
Even if you have had Lyme disease once, you are not protected from getting the infection again.
Are there other tick-borne infections in United States?
Ticks in United States can harbor bacteria or viruses other than Borrelia, including TBE (tick-borne disease encephalitis), which is a viral infection that can cause encephalitis.
Post-treatment lyme disease syndrome
Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) is a condition that can occur after someone has been treated for Lyme disease. Symptoms can include fatigue, pain, joint stiffness, and memory problems. There is no single test to determine if someone has PTLDS, so it can be difficult to diagnose. There is no cure for PTLDS, but treatments are available to help ease symptoms for people with lyme disease.
Risk of getting lyme disease
Although most people who are bitten by an infected tick will not develop Lyme disease, there is still a risk of getting the infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking steps to protect yourself against Lyme disease if you live in or travel to an area where the infection is common.
Lyme disease is left untreated
Lyme disease is left untreated? Then lyme disease may lead to serious health complications. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread through the bite of an infected tick. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious health problems.
Growing concern of tick populations
As tick populations continue to grow, so does the concern of people who are at risk for contracting tick-borne illnesses. Tick populations have been on the rise for several years now, and show no signs of slowing down. This is cause for concern, as ticks can transmit a number of serious diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis.
People who spend time outdoors in areas where ticks are common are most at risk for contracting a tick-borne illness. This includes hikers, campers, hunters, and others who enjoy spending time in nature. In order to help protect themselves from ticks, these people should take steps to reduce their exposure to ticks, including using insect repellent and wearing clothing that covers their skin.
It is also important to be vigilant about checking oneself for ticks after spending time outdoors.
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Vogue Health Team