What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an illness that occurs in humans that is carried by ticks. It is mostly prevalent in North America and Europe in areas where there is a large tick population. The actual disease is the result of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which often hitches a ride along with deer ticks. These ticks are parasites that live off of the blood of humans and animals, and when they feed, the bacterium can easily be passed along to the victim.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to take appropriate precautions when going into areas where ticks congregate. Ticks thrive in grassy areas and places with a lot of tree cover. They are known for their ability to leap off of trees and brush onto humans or animals passing by.
Fortunately, most victims of Lyme disease experience a complete recovery when treated correctly. If the disease is detected early, a simple course of antibiotics is likely to eradicate the disease without incident. For this reason, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms of Lyme disease arise. Later stages take longer to treat, but most patients recover with time.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease symptoms can be quite different between individuals. The disease attacks parts of the body in a unique way. While every victim may not experience all of the symptoms of Lyme disease, there are some general things to look for.
A rash is often one of the first Lyme disease symptoms to appear. This occurs at the site of the original tick bite where the bacterium was allowed to enter. Ticks like moist areas, so the rash is common at sites like the groin or behind knees and elbows. A small, red bump is the first sign. It eventually evolves into a a rash that varies widely in size. Look for a red target, sort of like a bull’s eye. About 70 or 80 percent of those infected will suffer the rash as one of their Lyme disease symptoms. The rash will get larger and more red as time passes.
With the onset of the rash usually comes flu-like symptoms. This includes running a fever, chills, body aches, headaches, and a feeling of general tiredness. The combination of any of these with the rash is a good indication that Lyme disease is present.
Joint pain will develop if the infection is not brought under control quickly. This may take weeks or months to arise. The knees are especially susceptible as Lyme disease symptoms persist.
While more rare, some people infected with Lyme disease may experience neurological effects. The membranes surrounding the brain can become inflamed, leading to paralysis of a side of the face or numbness in limbs. These symptoms of Lyme disease can occur months or years after an infection that has been left untreated.
In very few cases, heart problems may arise. An irregular heartbeat is one example, and it can show up in a victim weeks after the original infection.
If you have any reasons to believe you may be exhibiting Lyme disease symptoms, contact a doctor immediately. Lyme disease can be treated fairly easily with early detection. Most deer tick bites are harmless, and even if one carries the disease, it may or may not pass it to you. The longer the exposure to the tick, the higher the chance of infection.
Lyme disease is treatable, but in the event that it is left untreated, complications can arise. These include chronic joint inflammation, referred to as Lyme arthritis. The knee is a common location for this to occur. The brain can be affected over time, causing paralysis in the face and even impaired memory function. The disease can also cause heartbeat irregularities. These complications are the extreme cases, and treatment can easily prevent or reverse these conditions.
There are many simple things you can do to reduce your chances of contracting Lyme disease. If you know you are going into an area where ticks are likely to thrive, wear long pants and sleeves to minimize exposure. A hat can help keep ticks from attacking the scalp, and gloves can reduce exposure of the hands. Try to avoid heavy brush and high grass as much as possible. These are the areas where ticks are most prevalent.
Insect repellents are a good measure to make yourself a less attractive victim to a tick. DEET is a great repellent, but make sure to reapply as necessary. a 10 percent concentration provides protection for around two hours. Higher concentrations last proportionally longer. Be vigilant and reapply the repellent if staying in wooded areas for long periods.
There are measures you can take to make your yard less tick-friendly. Don’t leave piles of leaves around, and clear brush where possible. Place piles of wood in direct sunlight to discourage the congregation of ticks.
The most important prevention tactic is to check yourself and others for ticks. If you have been in an area where ticks are likely to be present, check yourself and your children and pets thoroughly afterward. Also, shower immediately. Ticks may sit on the skin for long period before they actually feed, so washing may be enough to prevent contraction even if a tick is present. If a tick is detected, use tweezers to remove it. Grab it by its head and pull gently until the tick is removed. Dispose the tick and clean the bite. Apply antiseptic to sterilize.
Lyme disease can easily be controlled by following these simple precautions. Remember that a person can contract Lyme disease repeatedly, so do not think you are immune if you have contracted it before. Follow the precautions to minimize the chances of infection, and if any symptoms of Lyme disease arise, seek medical attention as quickly as possible.