Lyme Disease is the most common tick borne disease in the United States. The disorder was first identified in 1975 when a group of children in Lyme, Connecticut, experienced mysterious arthritis like symptoms. The deer tick carrying the bacterium B. bergdorferi is responsible for the spread of the disease in the United States.
Signs and Symptoms
- Red rash that appears within a few weeks of a tick bite, initially as a small spot that expands over time, forming a circle or oval and sometimes resembling a bull’s eye. The rash can range in size from that of a dime to the entire width of a persons back. As the infection spreads, rashes can appear at different places on the body.
- Flu-like symptoms – fever, headache, stiff neck, body aches, and fatigue.
- Arthritis – 60% of people not treated with antibiotics develop recurring attacks of arthritis, most commonly in the knees, that last a few days to a few months. About 10 – 20% of untreated individuals will develop ongoing arthritis.
- Neurologic symptoms – stiff neck and severe headache, temporary paralysis of muscles in the face ( Bell’s Palsy), numbness, pain or weakness in the limbs, or poor motor coordination. Symptoms can develop weeks, months or even years following an untreated infection, and can last for weeks or months. Symptoms usually resolve completely, but they may recur.
- Heart problems – heart abnormalities such as palpitations, lightheadedness, fainting, chest pain and shortness of breath are uncommon. Symptoms may appear several weeks after infection and last a few days or weeks.
What causes it?
Ticks carrying the bacterium B. bergdorferi. The tick bites and the bacteria enter the skin at the site of the bite after an infected tick has been in place for 36 – 48 hours. Symptoms are primarily due to the body’s response to this invasion.
Who Is at Most Risk?
Individuals who are exposed to heavy wooded areas, especially in the summer and fall, are at greater risk. Lyme Disease is most common in children and young adults. 90% of cases occur in the coastal northeast, as well as Wisconsin, Minnesota, California and Oregon.
Prevention is #1. After removal of a tick, wash the area with soap and water. Apply rubbing alcohol to avoid local infection.
Antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin, doxycycline, or erythromycin may be prescribed. In the case of neurologic conditions, ceftriaxone or paenicillin is used. NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are used for the relief of symptoms.