Lyme disease is a tick-borne ailment that can strike anyone at any age, and pets too. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, but the ones that do can lead you down a road of difficult health problems and perhaps even death. Lyme disease is transferred when a deer tick bites a human and the bacteria enter your bloodstream. Early detection is the key to getting proper treatment for Lyme disease.
The most common first sign that you have been bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease is a red rash around the area where you were bitten. The rash usually looks like a bull’s eye. You normally get the rash one to two weeks after the bite occurs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “80 percent to 90 percent of all Lyme disease cases get the rash.”
The bacteria that the tick carries can enter the skin. As the bacteria spreads, more profound symptoms can arise. You may feel like you have the flu. You could experience headaches, fatigue and muscle aches. These are the same symptoms associated with having a viral infection. Chronic arthritis is also a common symptom of Lyme disease. Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose because there are many other diseases and conditions that can have the same symptoms of Lyme disease such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.
If Lyme disease is not detected early on, the bacteria could go into the heart and nervous system. This could lead to meningitis. If Lyme disease goes undetected for a year or more it could damage the motor and sensory nerves due to infection of the brain. If this happens, your brain would swell and you could die.
A red visual rash with the “bull’s eye” look in the center is a key sign that you have been bitten and infected by a tick. Some people will never show a visual sign of the infection, meaning further testing will need to be done to determine if they are infected. A blood test to check for antibodies along with an analysis of your health history is also beneficial to determine if you have been infected by Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is usually curable with antibiotics. The severity of the symptoms will determine which type of antibiotics you must take. Some antibiotics will be administered orally, such as amoxicillin. If you are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease then you will most likely receive antibiotics intravenously. Many people will also have reoccurring symptoms if they are diagnosed in the later stages of Lyme disease.
Preventing Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is not preventable; however, there are some things everyone can do to try and prevent it. You could use an insect spray such as DEET to help prevent ticks from crawling on you. Wear long pants and shirts when walking through the woods. Tuck in the bottoms of your pants into the tops of your boots to prevent the ticks from crawling up your legs. Check yourself and children daily to make sure there are no ticks stuck to the skin. Also, check over your pets for any ticks.
If there is a tick attached to your skin, remove it promptly but gently with tweezers. Place it in a jar so that it can be examined for Lyme disease.
DEET is not recommended for use with young children.
If you experience any of these symptoms, or if they become severe, contact a qualified health care provider immediately.