Did you know that more than 30,000 people in the United States alone get Lyme disease every year? However, there may be as many as 10 times more cases than that due to underreporting. Whatever the case, Lyme disease can be a serious condition and for some, it can come with lasting side effects.
You might know that people tend to get Lyme disease when bitten by an insect while outside. But is it really that easy to get this disease? More than that, what are the Lyme disease symptoms and the outlook of the disease? Keep reading and learn more about what Lyme disease is, how it occurs, and what you should do if you have been diagnosed with this condition.
How Do You Get Lyme Disease?
As mentioned before, people tend to get Lyme disease when they’re bitten by an insect while outdoors. However, it isn’t just any type of insect that can give a person this disease. It is specifically the black-legged tick, sometimes called a deer tick, which carries the disease.
So, does that mean you will always get Lyme disease if a deer tick bites you? Not necessarily. Deer ticks tend to carry a harmful type of bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. This is the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
If the deer tick bites you but is not infected with this bacterium, you will not get Lyme disease. However, this is a different case if the tick is infected. When an infected tick bites you, its pincers will pierce your skin and reach your bloodstream.
When this happens, the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, will have access to your blood from the tick’s mouth and will take the chance to enter your body. The problem is that many people don’t even know when they’re bitten by a deer tick. That’s because deer ticks are so small that their bites are also too small to feel.
However, deer ticks aren’t the only insects that can carry Lyme disease. Mosquitoes and even animals such as birds and mice can carry and spread the disease. Birds and mice in particular carry the disease because they are likely carrying deer ticks.
However, they themselves may also be infected. For example, if an infected mouse manages to bite you, there is a good chance that you could develop Lyme disease from the mouse. If you are bitten by a tick, there is a chance that you could keep yourself from getting Lyme disease by removing the tick from your skin in time.
Removing the Tick From Your Skin
Most people don’t know that you still might not get Lyme disease even if you’re bitten by an infected deer tick. How can that be possible, you might ask? It all has to do with the fact that the deer tick must be attached to you for at least 36 hours, if not more, to transmit the bacterium.
Deer ticks are very small which renders them very hard to see. If you’ve been outside for a prolonged period of time, you should examine any exposed parts of your skin once you come back home. If you find any ticks attached to your skin, you will need to remove them immediately.
Of course, you cannot know whether or not the ticks carry the Lyme disease bacterium, but you should always remove the ticks just in case. To remove the insect, grab a pair of tweezers and grasp the insect as close to the surface of your skin as you can. Then, pull upwards, but do not jerk the tweezers.
If you do this, the mouthpiece of the insect may remain on your skin while you remove the rest of the tick. This is not helpful since the bacterium may still be in the insect’s mouthparts. If this occurs, try removing the mouthparts with the tweezers.
Once that’s done, you will want to clean the bitten area as thoroughly as possible using soap, water, and rubbing alcohol. When you remove the tick, don’t crush it with your fingers because that will spread the bacteria if the tick is infected. Instead, try flushing it down the toilet.
If you do all this, there is a good chance that you won’t get Lyme disease. However, if you start to develop a rash around the area in which you were bitten, see a doctor.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
There are many symptoms of Lyme disease and, interestingly, the symptoms can change depending on how long you have the disease without being treated. The first sign of the disease is a unique, bull’s eye rash surrounding the area in which you were first bitten. This rash is known as the erythema migrans rash or EM rash.
Most but not all people will develop this rash as a Lyme disease symptom. The rash is very red and circular in the middle while there is a thinner and larger ring surrounding the central rash. The rash may be flat or it may develop a raised crust.
Some people may even develop several rashes across their bodies at once. This rash will continue to expand for several days and tends to appear a few days after the bite. Some rashes may grow to 12 inches across if left untreated.
This type of rash is not usually itchy, although it may be warm to the touch. Besides the rash, some other early symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, aches, and chills. Some people may think these signs are due to the common cold or flu, especially those who have not developed the characteristic Lyme disease rash.
However, if you have any reason to believe that your symptoms may be due to a Lyme disease infection, you should go to the doctor as soon as possible. That’s because the longer you go without treatment, the worse the symptoms will become. If you get treatment too late, you may be at risk of developing chronic symptoms that may last for years or even the rest of your life.
It is also much easier to treat Lyme disease when it is still in its early stages. Try to get treatment within a month.
Late Symptoms and Chronic Lyme Disease
The late and chronic symptoms of Lyme disease tend to be much more serious than the early signs. For example, instead of ordinary aches and pains that you may mistake for the aches and pains of the common cold, you will develop more severe pain and pain of different types. For example, severe headaches are common late symptoms of Lyme disease.
They are often chronic and can be nearly impossible to get rid of. Many people with untreated Lyme disease may experience nerve pain. Nerve pain is much sharper and more intense than muscle soreness and because it occurs in the nerves instead of the muscles, it can be very hard to treat.
Numbness and tingling are also common symptoms. Some people may lose sensation in certain parts of their body such as their hands or feet. These symptoms may be due to inflammation of the brain and spinal cord which can occur after getting infected. This inflammation can explain many of the symptoms that occur in late and chronic Lyme disease.
Arthritis of the knees is a particularly common symptom. The knees tend to become large, swollen, and very painful. This type of arthritis can make it difficult for the person to walk and move around.
The disease may also interfere with certain systems of the body such as the cardiovascular system. In particular, people with Lyme disease tend to develop heart palpitations and may even get an irregular heartbeat. The biggest problem with late and chronic Lyme disease is that because the disease has already progressed so far, any treatment available may not do much to alleviate the symptoms.
For some people, the symptoms of chronic Lyme disease may take years to go away. For others, the symptoms may never go away.
What Is the Best Lyme Disease Treatment?
Lyme disease treatment is usually only possible when you treat the disease as early as possible. Getting the disease treated within the first few weeks of getting bitten will produce the best results. If you let the disease progress for more than a month without treatment, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to cure the disease.
There are some people with strong immune systems that may be able to get better on their own. However, this is not common and you should not avoid treatment for this reason if you think you have Lyme disease. There is also no such thing as a Lyme disease vaccine to prevent people from getting the disease in the first place.
When you go to the doctor, your doctor may or may not give you a Lyme disease test. This may not be necessary if your symptoms are obvious and indicative of Lyme disease. Once your doctor diagnoses you with the disease, you will prescribe you some antibiotics.
You will need to take these antibiotics for as long as your doctor tells you. If you don’t, the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium won’t die off and will continue to replicate in your system, causing your symptoms to worsen. You should be patient when recovering from this condition because the recovery process will take time.
Usually, people take two to three weeks to recover completely from the disease. When you are recovering, you should stay inside as much as possible and avoid overexerting yourself. This will help your body heal and it will keep your body from becoming more stressed than it already is.
If your symptoms persist for years, you may have a chronic form of Lyme disease. There is no cure for chronic Lyme disease, but there are ways to manage your symptoms.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease
As you have seen, Lyme disease can be a serious condition. In some cases, if left untreated, the symptoms can get more severe and can persist throughout a person’s entire lifetime. Does that mean you should be afraid of ever going outside again in the event that you might be bitten by an infected deer tick?
Of course not. There are ways to prevent Lyme disease so the chances of you becoming infected will be very low. To start, you are not very likely to be bitten by an infected tick if you are walking through a park or a parking lot.
Deer ticks live in forested areas rather than developed areas. If you enjoy hiking or if you spend a lot of time outside in general, you might be at a higher risk of developing this disease. For that reason, you will always want to wear clothes that cover most of your body.
You should aim to wear long pants, shirts with long sleeves, shoes, socks that cover your ankles, a hat, and gloves. When walking outside, you should try to stick to paths rather than walking through tall grass or bushes. That’s because deer ticks tend to live in covered areas such as bushes and grass.
You should also use plenty of insect repellent. This will help to keep any insects away from you in the first place. Finally, when you come back home, you should inspect your clothes and skin for ticks. If your pet was outside with you, you should inspect its fur to ensure that no ticks hitched a ride on your pet.
Everything You Need to Know About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can be a serious condition if left untreated. It comes from being bitten by an infected deer tick. The first symptoms include a bull’s eye rash, aches, fever, and chills, but the symptoms can become worse and even chronic if left untreated.
People who seek treatment early usually make a full recovery. To learn more about treatment, contact us here.