Lyme disease is a tick borne illness. The problem is a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. The first symptom is often a “bull’s eye” type rash at the site of the bite. It can occur as early as three days after the bite or up to thirty days later. Other bull’s eye rashes may develop a few days after the first.
This rash does not usually hurt or itch. If the bite is on the scalp or in a difficult to see area, it might not even be noticed. That is a definite problem because the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome for the patient.
The second stage of Lyme disease is a flu-like illness this can happen soon after the rash or up to two weeks later. Symptoms include fever and body aches.
The third state is a joint problem similar to arthritis. This can affect any joint, but the shoulder tends to be the most common. If the doctor doesn’t test for Lyme disease the condition, treatment for rheumatoid arthritis might begin, and some of the medications for this can make it difficult to treat Lyme disease.
There are further complications. Untreated Lyme disease can also affect the nervous system and the heart. It is estimated that 15-20% of cases will head in that direction.
Treatment: If it’s caught early, Lyme disease can be treated with oral antibiotics. In later stages, IV and/or antibiotic injections may be needed. The later the disease is caught, the longer it will take to recover.
Prevention: The first way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by a tick. While that is not always easy to do, there are some things that will help. When going through tick infested areas, wear a hat, long sleeves, long pants along with socks and appropriate shoes. It’s also wise to use some form of insect repellent. Any animals that are in such areas should also be appropriately protected.
When you return from such an outing, do a thorough check for ticks on all who were in the area, including pets. If you find a tick, carefully remove it.
The second part of prevention is catching it early. If you have been bitten by a tick, contact your doctor. Blood tests can tell if you’ve caught the disease and antibiotics can be administered. The sooner this is done, the better for all involved. If you find ticks on your pets, contact the vet.