The Basics of Lyme Disease

November 12, 2012

The Basics of Lyme Disease

Are you familiar with Lyme disease? If you live in the northern parts of the United States you should know something about this debilitating disease that is caused by a bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted to you by way of a tick bite.

Ticks that carry this bacterium are often found in grassy areas and areas where rodents and deer are common. When ticks bite you, they attach themselves by way of mouth parts that can anchor into your skin. Once attached they will feast on your blood and engorge themselves. They are difficult to find before they feast on blood but afterward they become quite large and easy to spot. A tick needs to be removed as soon as possible and be careful not to leave their mouth parts behind. Generally, there are many species of ticks and most of them have no interest in humans. They practically have to fall on you to take an interest. And, in humans a tick bite rarely results in Lyme disease. Nevertheless, it can happen.

It is important to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease that can affect a number of different organs and tissue such as the nervous system, joints, skin and heart. Generally symptoms are described as occurring in 3 phases. The first phase you may observe circular rashes. The second phase flu like symptoms occur often with swollen lymph nodes. And, the third phase involves arthritic symptoms in the large joints of the body. Let’s take a closer look at these stages.

The first stage often involves the appearance of a circular rash often called a bulls-eye that has a red center. It usually develops one to two weeks after infection however, some individuals never get the rash. The bull’s-eye rash tends to go away within a months time but may persist in some.

The second stage flu-like symptoms may develop. Quite often the lymph nodes are swollen and the individual experiences some fatigue, possible headache and muscle soreness. Quite often these symptoms will go away however, in some people they remain and infection may spread to other parts of the body. The infection can spread to the heart causing arrhythmias and/or to the nervous system generating numbness and tingling sensations in the arms and legs. If headaches occur and neck stiffness is present, this may be a sign of meningitis.

The third stage if it occurs may occur anywhere from weeks to years after the tick bite. General symptoms involve arthritic pain and stiffness of the knee or other joints.

Given that there are a wide range of symptoms that are common to many diseases, it may be difficult to diagnose Lyme disease not to mention that not everyone experiences all of the 3 stages.

If you suspect that you have been bitten by a tick or perhaps your child, contact your healthcare provider to let him/her know. If you can, remove the tick and save it so your healthcare provider can see it. Now, the question becomes how do you remove the tick safely.

To remove a tick safely use a pair of tweezers and grasp the tick firmly at the mouth region very close to the skin. Make sure you pull steadily until the tick lets go. Make sure to swab the area with alcohol when the tick comes free. Just place the tick in a container that you can seal tightly to carry it with when you go to the doctor so he/she can examine it. There is no vaccine for Lyme disease but there is a course of antibiotics available that take 2 to 4 weeks to treat. And, generally, you’ll be back to normal in no time.

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