Lyme Disease – The Facts

Lyme disease is a systemic infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings , and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease. Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that causes signs and symptoms ranging from rash and flu-like fever and body aches to more serious ones including joint swelling, weakness, fatigue and temporary paralysis. Lyme disease can be transmitted from an infected mother to fetus through the placenta during pregnancy, possibly resulting in stillbirth. Lyme disease has at least 37 known species, 12 of which are Lyme related, and an unknown number of genomic strains. Lyme disease can affect the skin, joints, nervous system, and other organ systems. Symptoms, and their severity, can vary from person to person. In about 50% of the cases a characteristic rash or lesion called erythema migrans is seen. It begins a few days to a few weeks after the bite of an infected tick.

It is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye with alternating light and dark rings. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America and Europe, and one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the United States. Lyme disease can affect the heart, leading to an irregular heart rhythm or chest pain. It can spread to the nervous system, causing facial paralysis or tingling and numbness in the arms and legs. It can start to cause headaches and neck stiffness, which may be a sign of meningitis. Swelling and pain in the large joints can also occur. Lyme disease is not transmitted from person to person. The risk of developing Lyme disease depends on an individual’s exposure to ticks. In 60-80 percent of cases, a rash resembling a bull¬ís eye or solid patch, about two inches in diameter, appears and expands around or near the site of the bite. Lyme disease is most common in rural and suburban areas in the northeastern and midwestern states. Lyme disease occurs in patients of all ages. However, a bimodal peak exists: one at age 5-14 years and a second one at 50-59 years

Risk factors for Lyme disease include walking in high grasses, taking place in activities that increase tick exposure, and having a pet that may carry ticks home. Lyme arthritis which is antibiotic resistant may be treated with hydroxychloroquine or methotrexate. Antibiotic treatment is the central pillar in the management of Lyme disease. Traditional treatment of acute Lyme disease usually consists of a minimum two-week to one-month course of antibiotics. Doxycycline – bacteriostatic properties stops synthesis of bacteria replication. Inhibits bacterial protein synthesis. Amoxicillin – bacteriostatic properties do not kill bacterium, but do halt bacterial growth by inhibition of cell wall synthesis. Ceftriaxone – (intravenous therapy) bactericidal properties kill bacterium. Wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt for added protection. Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily. Wash all clothes after leaving tick-infested areas, and bathe and shampoo your child thoroughly to eliminate any unseen ticks.

Lyme Disease Treatment Tips

1. Oral antibiotics -usually doxycycline for adults and children older than 8.

2. Use repellents only in small amounts, avoiding unnecessary repeat application.

3. Try to reduce the use of repellents by dressing in long sleeves and pants tucked into socks or boots.

4. Do not apply near eyes, nose or mouth and use sparingly around ears. Do not apply to the hands of small children.

5. Use an insect repellent containing deep or permethrin.

6. Apply deep sparingly to skin according to directions on the label.

7. Apply repellents according to label instructions. Applying directly to clothing appears to be most effective.

8. Avoid plantings that especially attract deer and other animals.