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Lyme Disease – An Overview

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   7 min     



Lyme disease is an infectious bacterial disease mainly caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Other species of this bacterium are also found which are less likely to cause the disease. These bacteria spread through the skin bites from the deer ticks. You may have the disease if you spend more time in the woods where the ticks thrive.

Most of you may feel worried if the tick bites you, but the fact is that the risk of developing the disease is shallow even if the tick is carrying the infectious agent. Deer ticks transmit the Lyme infection only upon feeding on the host blood for at least 36 hours. Thus, the risk of infection is as low as 1.2% to 1.4% even in the standard geographical zones of this disease.

Can Lyme disease be inherited?

It’s not surprising that some members of a family have Lyme disease. But it’s not hereditary; it’s because they receive the same environment.  

A significant cause could be irregularities in the billions of duodenum bacteria that we call the microbiome. Those bacteria that are within our duodenum that outnumber us 10 to 1 and retain us healthy.  

It’s not unusual for the microbiome to be delicate or unhealthy. If the microbiome is harmful in one family member, it’s possible to be toxic in another member of the family. Each home has a distinct microbiome. We attend to eat the same foods as other family members and undergo similar stressors, which all adds to variations in the microbiome. 

Additionally, if anyone catches chronic Lyme or any prolonged infection, typically there are other health problems they have that they weren’t aware of. 

Lyme Disease Symptoms 

What are the 3 stages of Lyme disease?

The symptoms of Lyme can be categorised into three stages:

Stage 1 (Early Localised disease): If the tick has bitten you or your child, then you should observe the bitten site for the presence of any expanding redness (called the erythema migrans- EM).  

The colour is uniform, and the size of the lesion slowly increases to up to 20 cm over a few days or weeks. The rash becomes skin coloured at the centre as it expands. Soon the rash develops into a series of rings resembling a bull’s eye.  

Burning and itching of the outbreak are reported. Nearly 10-20% of the people with ticks Lyme disease can develop multiple rashes. The rash usually disappears after four weeks of its appearance. 

If the rash does not expand and stays only for 1 or 2 days, then it is not due to the bacterial infection but is possibly due to the salivary components of the tick. 

Stage 2 (Early Disseminated Lyme disease): As the bacteria spreads to the other body parts, further symptoms of the disease develop. These include flu-like symptoms such as the fever, chills, sore throat, visual disturbances, headache, muscle pain, fatigue and enlarged lymph nodes which may develop after several weeks of the tick bite. Numbness and tingling sensation can also develop. 

Stage 3 (Late disseminated Lyme disease): If the infection is not treated, you may develop severe complications after a few weeks, months or even years. These symptoms include a severe headache, arthritis of large joints, disturbed heart rhythms, and several brain disorders affecting mood, memory, and sleep. 

Causes of Lyme Disease

While bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii cause Lyme disease in the United States, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are the chief reasons in Europe and Asia. They are carried mainly by black-legged or deer ticks. Young brown ticks often are no longer than a poppy seed, which can make them almost difficult to locate. 

To contract Lyme disease, an infected deer tick must attack you. The bacteria invade your skin through the bite and ultimately make their move into your bloodstream. 

In most situations, to transmit Lyme disease, a deer tick must be associated for 36 - 48 hours. If you discover an attached tick that seems inflated, it may have served long enough to spread bacteria. Eliminating the tick as soon as possible might deter infection. 

Diagnosis of Lyme Disease

  • If you develop the erythema migrans, you should consult a physician for further diagnosis and treatment. You may be asked for a tick bite test for Lyme disease.

  • ELISA is performed to detect the antibodies produced by the body against the bacteria. 

  • Western blot technique confirms the ELISA test. 

  • Blood tests may not be beneficial to know the presence of the infection. This is because the blood tests of the infected person may be detrimental for 2-6 weeks.

How is Lyme disease treated?

  • Early-stage Lyme Disease treatment leads to better recovery. If you are bitten by the tick, your healthcare provider may either treat the signs and symptoms of the infection or may prescribe antibiotics as a preventive measure.

  • Antibiotics may be given 72 hours after the removal of the tick. Doxycycline is prescribed for children above 8 years and adults. Adults may be prescribed with 200 mg single dose of the tablet while children may be prescribed up to 4 mg/kg body weight.

  • Antibiotic treatment for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children younger than 8 years involves the administration of cefuroxime and amoxicillin.

  • A 14 to 21 days course of antibiotics is given to treat long-term or chronic Lyme disease.

  • Symptoms such as joint and muscle pain may be persistent even after the treatment and will improve gradually.

Some tips on disease control and prevention

  • Avoid the habitats where the ticks are present excessively. A moist, shaded environment, with low-lying vegetation in a large grassy habitat, is favourable for the growth of the ticks.

  • If you cannot avoid the areas infested with ticks, then wear light coloured outfits to easily spot the ticks and remove them before they get firmly attached to your skin. 

  • Wear full-sleeved shirts tucked in the pants, and socks or shoes to prevent the ticks from reaching your skin. 

  • Ticks are generally present at the ground level so that additional protection may be provided with high-heeled boots.

  • Apply permethrin which kills the ticks immediately as they come in contact. Insect repellants containing DEET (n,n-Diethyl-m toluamide) can also be applied to the clothes or the exposed skin. They are safe for both children and adult skin.

  • The bacteria do not spread before 36 hours of attachment of the tick to the skin. So check your skin daily for the presence of any attached ticks and remove them immediately. Adopting a proper way to remove the embedded tick from the skin is essential to prevent the tick from releasing the bodily fluids into the wound. Hold the tick with a set of fine tweezers and pull it back without any jerks or twists. Please do not squeeze the tick as its bodily fluids contain the infectious organism. Do not use kerosene, Vaseline, liquid soap or nail polish remover, to remove the tick. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antiseptic after removing the tick. Do not be alarmed of the leftover parts of the tick as the bacteria are present in the midgut of the tick.

  • Preventive antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor based on the identification of the deer tick and the signs of erythema migrans rash.

  • By following specific strategies, the abundance of the ticks can be reduced in their endemic residential areas. Clear off the leaf-litter, wooded areas of piles, and the fallen trees to allow more sunlight which can cut down their population. 

  • Application of pesticides in the residential areas is also a divine intervention to suppress the tick growth.

Be vigilant! Don’t assume that you won’t be infected. Check your children and yourself for the presence of any attached ticks if you stay in the endemic areas of the deer ticks. 

Identify the symptoms and consult the doctor at the earliest. Early diagnosis of the infectious diseases approached with proper antibiotic therapy can give the best positive results to prevent advanced stages of illness and morbidity from the disease. 

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Tags:  Lyme Disease, Diagnostic Tests & Results, skin care,Skin infection, Ticks

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