Lyme borreliosis or Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bite of an infected tick. Infected ticks carry a bacterium called spirochete. Infected ticks spread these bacteria by biting animals and humans. Not all people who have had tick bites develop Lyme disease; only people bitten by infected ticks develop the disease.
Tick bites might go unnoticed in a few; these people might not realize the onset of the disease symptoms. Many people who develop Lyme disease do not remember being bitten by ticks. Therefore it is important to know and watch for symptoms of Lyme disease.
Ticks are small and can be hardly seen. Immature ticks or nymphs are as big as a poppy seed. Adult ticks resemble the size of a sesame seed. Ticks have to be removed the moment you see them. This might prevent Lyme disease. Lyme disease is spread by infected ticks only if they have been attached to the body for at least 36 hours. The disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, USA. Lyme disease is common in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.
May through August (during spring and summer) is the riskiest period for the spread of Lyme disease. The ticks are very active during this period as people spend more time outdoors. Lyme disease is not contagious and will not spread through touch but a person suffering from Lyme disease should not donate blood to another healthy person.
Bacteria present in ticks cause Lyme disease. Two types of ticks are identified as major causes for spreading Lyme disease bacteria
In a few people the symptoms settle down without treatment, but in a few more the infection tends to spread to other parts of the body.
Third or final stage symptoms
If left unattended during the initial stages, Lyme disease can cause symptoms like:
The above mentioned symptoms can show up within few weeks from the onset of Lyme disease. If left untreated, it might cause symptoms like:
Lyme disease diagnosis
The doctor will begin with a physical examination. Questions like:
The doctor might also order for blood tests. Blood tests (IgM and IgG) can detect antibodies for Lyme disease only after a few weeks after being infected. Antibody tests are conducted on fluid from joint or spine. If these tests are inconclusive, ELISA test is done to screen for Lyme disease. The Western Blot test confirms the results and can detect chronic Lyme disease infection.
Lyme disease treatment
Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics. Antibiotics can cure the condition within 3 weeks of starting the treatment. The moment you notice abnormal rashes, it is suggested you visit your doctor. Treatment for Lyme disease should be started immediately. If you have had a tick attached to your skin, talk to your doctor immediately especially if you live in an area where Lyme disease has been reported.
There is no home treatment for Lyme disease as the conditions will settle down only after taking antibiotics. Hence it is advisable to check with your physician before you begin medications.
There is no vaccination to prevent Lyme disease.