Lyme disease is an infectious disease transmitted through the bite of a deer tick. In the US, Lyme disease has been found and diagnosed in all 50 states and the CDC estimates that 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year. With the rates of Lyme disease rising rapidly, it is important to be well-informed about this issue. Here are 5 things you should know about Lyme disease:
- You Can Be Exposed to Lyme Disease Anywhere
You may believe, like many people, that you can only be exposed to the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease if you have spent time in a wooded area. Most people only worry about checking for ticks and tick bites after they have been camping, hiking, or otherwise exploring nature where deer ticks are common.
You might be surprised to know that these disease-carrying ticks have been found in cities in all 50 states. Other people’s dogs and small wild animals, especially mice, are known to carry around these disease-carrying ticks, bringing them into cities and often right into your very own backyard. Once a tick is in your backyard, it can easily live in your grass and shrubbery. If you have pets or children that play outside often, you should check them regularly for ticks and bites.
It is important to know that anyone can come into contact with Lyme disease at any time, so everybody should be aware of the symptoms associated with this disease.
- Lyme Disease Can Be Difficult to Diagnose
You have probably heard that a clear indication of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye rash. Many people who get bitten by a tick watch out for this rash, and if it doesn’t develop they think they are in the clear. However, only about 9% of people with Lyme disease will actually have this symptom.
The more common symptoms of Lyme disease are much more difficult to diagnose because of how varied they are and their similarities to other health issues. Some of these symptoms are joint and muscle pain, memory loss, feeling faint or weak, stomach issues, problems with cognitive functioning, fatigue, headache, and many more. These can often be misdiagnosed and present themselves as symptoms of the flu, chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, or even Crohn’s disease.
If misdiagnosed and not treated properly, Lyme disease has a greater chance of becoming a chronic issue.
- You Might Show Symptoms Months After a Bite
Lyme disease symptoms don’t always present themselves in the few days following a tick bite. It might surprise you to know that the disease can stay dormant in your body for weeks or even months before showing any signs or symptoms. This can make the sudden onset of symptoms feel like they might be related to something else.
Commonly, symptoms of Lyme Disease that present a few months after a tick bite get mistaken for the common flu. If you feel like you are getting weak or sick and know that you were bitten by a tick, talk to your doctor about the possibility of having Lyme disease.
- Treatment Doesn’t Work for Everyone
The standard treatment method for people diagnosed with Lyme disease is 3-4 weeks on an antibiotic. While this is effective in most people, you should be aware that about 20% of patients don’t respond to treatments for Lyme disease. Usually, these people have already had problems with a weakened immune system, but sometimes there is no clear indication why the treatment works for some and not for others.
Those who continue to suffer from chronic Lyme Disease after treatment are diagnosed with Post-Treatment Lyme disease Syndrome, or PTLDS. Even in the medical community, there is debate and controversy over how to proceed with treating these patients. Different antibiotics or a combination of different types have been used, but many patients will continue to suffer from lasting effects of this disease, even after it has supposedly been cured.
- You Are Able to Decrease Your Risk of Getting Lyme Disease
While Lyme disease is not entirely preventable, there are precautions you can take to lower your risk of coming into contact with an infected deer tick.
While doing things such as camping or hiking in a wooded area, be sure to cover up as best as you can. Wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants can prevent ticks from being able to bite once they are on you.
At your own house, you can make sure that any brush or piles pf leaves are quickly cleared away, and that your wood piles are in a sunny area. And most importantly, check yourself, your children, and your pets regularly for ticks. If you find one, be sure to remove it by the head with tweezers and leave no part of the tick still in contact with the skin. Keep an eye on all tick bites, and stay as educated as possible about the symptoms and effects of Lyme disease.