The Earliest Signals of Lyme Disease
If you live in an area where ticks are common, it is important to recognize the earliest signals of Lyme disease. There are a number of different types of ticks that can transfer different types of bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Infected ticks can be found all over the world.
Lyme disease can be a complicated condition because the bacteria infection affects multiple systems of your body. When it comes to Lyme disease, early detection is important. Those who get treatment right away tend to reach full recovery while those who wait will have lingering symptoms and may never fully get rid of the disease.
Symptoms and Signs of Lyme Disease
The signs of Lyme disease in the early stages can be easily ignored because they tend to be very mild. That is why you should be aware of the symptoms so that if you have been bitten by a tick or live in an area with a large tick population you know what to look for.
A skin rash around the bite area is your first sign that you may have Lyme disease. Sometimes there will also be a small area of redness where the tick bit you during the first day or two, which ends up going away. This is not usually a sign of Lyme disease. The rash that indicates Lyme disease first occurs approximately three to seven days after the incident, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
This rash is also known as a bull’s eye due to its growing appearance. The rash continues to expand over a number of days. It is usually not itchy or painful like some rashes, although it may feel warm when touched due to the inflammation of the infection. The rash lasts for about three to five weeks.
Most people infected with Lyme disease will also notice systemic symptoms around the same time that the rash is developing. This includes fatigue, chills, joint pain, and fever, although they may only occur briefly. Early signs also include lymph node swelling and headaches. The best-case scenario is that you recognize these symptoms early so that you can get help quickly.
Once the early signs of Lyme disease have passed, more severe symptoms will begin occurring, which can be quite debilitating. These include numbness or tingling of the extremities, paralysis of the face, cardiac abnormalities, painful arthritis, and mental disorders.
Treatment of Lyme Disease
Because there are different stages of Lyme disease, the treatment will be different according to the stage of the disease. The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society lays out guidelines based on the symptoms and advancement of the condition.
Antibiotics that are given within the first few weeks of infection tend to result in rapid and complete recovery. Usually only one type of antibiotic is necessary in the early stages. If the disease was diagnosed late, or in the rare case that early antibiotic treatment did not clear symptoms, more complicated treatment will be necessary.
A combination of antibiotics for longer periods of time will sometimes be prescribed. The drugs may be taken orally or intravenously, although this is not recommended for longer than six weeks due to side effects. Even after a long run of antibiotics, some people will still have symptoms that lag on and persist for months or years.
Prevalence of Lyme Disease
When you are in areas where ticks carrying the infected bacteria are prevalent, you need to be even more vigilant in checking for ticks and symptoms of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is mainly found in deer ticks. Other types of ticks may carry the bacteria but only the deer tick and its relative, the Western black-legged tick, have been shown to transmit it to humans.
Certain areas of the country have a higher number of Lyme disease-carrying ticks, although they tend to be spreading to more areas. According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, the upper Midwest as well as the upper East Coast regions have always been areas with high numbers of deer ticks.
Deer ticks are also prevalent along the Oregon coast and in Northern California. The difference between those areas and the Northeast and Midwest is that there is a much lower incidence of spreading in states along the Pacific Coast.
Prevention of Lyme Disease
To avoid the debilitating effects of Lyme disease, prevention is the key. If you live in or are visiting an area with a high prevalence of deer ticks, wear long clothes and enclosed shoes. Tie long hair up and avoid sitting on stone walls or on the ground. Wear insect repellent that contains DEET, as this tends to fight off ticks the best, and stay on trails that are well traveled.
Make sure to do a tick check on yourself and others on a regular basis. Ticks tend to like the back of the knees, armpits, groin areas, navel, neck, and ears, so keep a close eye on those areas. If an embedded tick is found, remove it with a pair of tweezers by grasping the mouthparts or head of the tick. If the tick does not look swollen, the chances of you being infected are slim but you should still be aware of any symptoms.