Lyme disease is a disease which causes infection in the human body. A bacterium named Borrelia is the culprit that causes this disease. It is transmitted through infected black-legged ticks.
A number of people in the United States along the east coast suffer from Lyme disease each year. Lyme disease does not transmit from one person to another or through food.
CDC estimates that about 300,000 people are infected every year. Lyme disease can be treated easily if caught and attended to early on. It should not be left untreated as it may create more severe complications over time.
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme disease
The most common and early sign of Lyme disease occurs a week after the tick bites. The surrounding area of the bite mark becomes red and expands over time. The rash does not itch and is not painful to touch.
This redness of the skin and expanding rash is known as erythema migrans. The rash expands slowly over time and can reach up to 12 inches across and is similar to a bull’s eye pattern.
But not all people containing the infection get a rash; some have other symptoms such as fever, chills, and aches.
Fever and Chills
One of the early signs of Lyme disease is fever and chills. High body temperatures for more than two days and sudden chills may be an indication that the person has been infected.
Headaches, Fatigue and Muscle Aches
Severe constant headaches and neck stiffness are also symptoms of the disease. People with Lyme disease experience fatigue along with muscle aches and joint aches.
What Happens If Lyme disease is Not Treated?
If left untreated, the infection becomes severe and affects other parts and organs of the body. The nervous system, heart, joints, and muscles can all be affected if Lyme disease is not treated timely.
After the early signs and symptoms, if the infection is not attended to at the earliest, it may worsen over time. After a few weeks, the rash starts to occur on other parts of the body and may expand.
Joint pains worsen and muscles swell. All the joints and muscles in the body are affected especially the knees.
Heart complications like irregular heartbeat and palpitations occur as a result of untreated Lyme disease.
If the disease is not treated accordingly, it may create neurological problems as well. Brain membranes, as well as the spine, are prone to inflammation which may result in temporary paralysis of the face, numbness in limbs and weakened muscles. Muscle movement might also be affected as a result of the progressed infection.
Treatment and Precautions
Lyme disease can be completely cured with antibiotics in the early stages of the disease. Diagnosis involves checking for symptoms associated with Lyme disease, history of tick exposure and blood tests to test for specific antibodies in the blood. The doctor might give a few weeks of oral antibiotics to cure the infection.
Ticks are found in moist and shaded areas in woods, shrubs, woodpiles, or in tall grass. It is advised to take precautionary steps to prevent tick bites from spreading the disease.
People living in wooded areas or people who spend time in areas where ticks are commonly found should take preventive measures to avoid tick bites.
CDC suggests that clothes, shoes, socks, tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and all other camping gear should be either soaked in 0.5% permethrin solution or should be sprayed with it.
This odorless solution is extremely toxic for ticks. If a tick climbs onto something which has been soaked or sprayed with permethrin solution, it falls off or dies within 20-30 seconds.
Moreover, it is advisable to limit skin exposure as much as possible by wearing long sleeve shirt and trousers tucked into socks.
Wearing light-colored shirts and trousers make it easier to locate a black-legged tick and remove it before it bites.