Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment
Updated/Revised Date: 2022-04-12
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Additional References: Lyme Disease Publications
Synopsis: Information on Lyme Disease, a health condition contracted through the bite of infected Black Legged Ticks. Lyme disease is transmitted to humans via black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Untreated Lyme disease can spread to the nervous system and to the heart, as well as to the joints. One of the first signs of Lyme disease is usually a circular rash referred to as 'Erythema Migrans' which affects about seventy to eighty percent of the people who are infected after a delay of three to thirty days. The rash appears around the area of the tick bite, and expands over a period of days, potentially to a size of up to twelve inches across. An interesting feature of the rash is that the center of the rash might clear as it grows larger, making it resemble a bull's-eye.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. each year. In 2013 most Lyme disease cases reported to the CDC were concentrated heavily in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 96 percent of cases in 13 states. In fact, the disease gets its name from the northeastern town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first discovered.
The bacterium, 'Borrelia Burgdorferi,' causes Lyme disease, which is transmitted to people through the bite of infected Black-Legged Ticks. Symptoms of Lyme disease involve headaches, fevers, fatigue, and a skin rash known as, 'Erythema Migrans.'
Untreated Lyme disease can spread to the nervous system and to the heart, as well as to the joints.
A diagnosis of Lyme disease is reached through lab testing, exhibited symptoms, and physical findings such as the characteristic rash associated with it, as well as potential exposure to ticks. Laboratory testing and results are most helpful when Lyme disease is in its later stages. In the majority of cases of Lyme disease, antibiotic treatment is successful. Prevention of Lyme disease involves taking steps such as using insect repellents, integrated pest management, and landscaping, as well as promptly removing ticks which can transmit additional diseases in addition to Lyme disease.
Squirrels, Mice, and other small animals are carriers of Lyme disease; however, Lyme disease is transmitted to human beings through a specific species of ticks. The Black-Legged Tick, also known as the 'Deer Tick' found in the United States, is a transmitter of Lyme disease in north-central and north-eastern areas. Along the Pacific coastal areas, the Western Black-Legged Tick is a transmitter of the disease. There are many additional species of ticks to be found in America; they haven't been found to transmit Lyme disease.
One of the first signs of Lyme disease is usually a circular rash referred to as 'Erythema Migrans' which affects about seventy to eighty percent of the people who are infected after a delay of three to thirty days. The rash appears around the area of the tick bite, and expands over a period of days, potentially to a size of up to twelve inches across. An interesting feature of the rash is that the center of the rash might clear as it grows larger, making it resemble a bull's-eye. The person affected might go on to develop additional rashes on their body as days go by; the rashes may be warm, but are typically not painful. The person can also experience symptoms such as chills, fevers, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and headaches. Sometimes these symptoms are the only ones a person will experience.
People who contact Lyme disease may experience it in different ways. Not everyone has all the same symptoms, and the symptoms associated with Lyme disease occur with other diseases too. Lyme disease has the potential to infect many parts of the human body, and to create various symptoms at different times. If you have been bitten by a tick and suspect that you may have Lyme disease, it is important to contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Early Signs and Symptoms (3 to 30 days after tick bite) may include; fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Erythema migrans (EM) rash:
- May appear on any area of the body
- May feel warm to the touch, but is rarely itchy or painful
- Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
- Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or "bull's-eye" appearance
- Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
- Expands gradually over a period of days, reaching up to 12 inches (30.48 cm) or more across
Later Signs and Symptoms (days to months after tick bite)
- Nerve pain
- Problems with short-term memory
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
- Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat - Lyme carditis
- Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease
A diagnosis of Lyme disease is made based upon the symptoms the patient presents, any objective physical findings such as the characteristic, 'bulls-eye,' rash in company with arthritis or facial palsy, as well as a potential exposure to a tick bite.
Tests for antibodies in the blood by ELISA and Western blot is the most widely used method for Lyme diagnosis.
A two-tiered protocol is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): the sensitive ELISA test is performed first, and if it is positive or equivocal, then the more specific Western blot is run.
Treatment and Prognosis
People who receive recommended antibiotic treatment within several days of appearance of an initial EM rash have the best prospects.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated with 2 to 4 weeks of antibiotics. Depending on the symptoms and when you were diagnosed, you may require a longer course or repeat treatment with antibiotics.
Some people experience symptoms that continue more than 6 months after treatment. Research continues into the causes of these persistent symptoms and possible treatment methods.
Subtopics and Associated Subjects
|Latest Lyme Disease Publications|
|Lyme Disease Ticks Reported in Nearly 50% of US Counties|
Study reveals the blacklegged tick reported in more than 45% of U.S. counties, compared to 30% of counties in 1998.
Author: Entomological Society of America
Publish Date: 2016-01-19 - Updated: 2019-07-01
|Water on the Knee Can Be Sign of Lyme Disease|
Even when patients do not exhibit a bulls eye rash water on the knee can be a primary symptom of Lyme disease.
Author: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Publish Date: 2015-11-01 - Updated: 2019-07-01
|Ticks Carrying Lyme Disease Found in London|
Visitors to parks in South London at risk of contact with ticks that can transmit Lyme disease to humans.
Author: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Publish Date: 2015-10-10 - Updated: 2018-05-01
|Risk of Lyme Disease Anytime in Northwest California|
Study finds ticks that carry Lyme disease in Northwest California are active all year, making the threat of Lyme disease year-round.
Publish Date: 2014-08-24 - Updated: 2019-07-01
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