Ever come back home from a pleasant trip out to the fields or woods on a nice summer day only to discover you’ve brought along an unwelcome visitor? Ticks can be quite a nuisance. They grab the flesh with their little mouths, latching on with a firm bite. Then, the blood-sucking begins. Worse than the fear of a little vampire-like insect feasting on your blood is the potential threat they carry within their own bodies.
This disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, found in black-legged ticks. At first, the symptoms start simple and largely unnoticeable. Left untreated, however, the effects can be painful and long-lasting.
Read on to learn the symptoms and how to treat Lyme disease.
Target Areas of Lyme Disease
The Centers for Disease Control has reported that 95% of cases for Lyme disease took place in the following 14 states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
If you reside in or plan to visit one of these states, it’s vital for your health always to be cautious of black-legged ticks. As a precaution, wearing long socks, pants, and long-sleeved shirts is best.
After every outing, check any exposed areas of your body for ticks. If you discover a tick on your body, follow these steps for removal and disposal as quickly as possible:
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick’s body as close to the surface of your skin as possible
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure until the tick has detached
- Clean the affected area with rubbing alcohol or an iodine scrub
- Dispose of the tick by drowning it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet
Be on the lookout for any symptoms described below, and contact your doctor should you experience any of them. Your doctor will know best how to treat Lyme disease.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Left untreated, Lyme disease has many symptoms commonly associated with other illnesses. This can make it difficult for doctors to diagnose right away, but more research is being conducted to understand this disease further.
Here are the symptoms to be aware of for early on-set Lyme disease:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Also, 70 to 80 percent of patients with Lyme disease experience what is known as an erythema migrans rash. This rash develops within 3 to 30 days at the tick bite site. It is not painful or itchy, but it will produce a redness that can spread up to 12 inches in diameter.
Symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease
If not treated soon enough, Lyme disease can develop further and cause worse symptoms. Sometimes, even when treated, Lyme disease can have lingering effects, known as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. These occur within days to months after the initial bite and can last up to 6 months to over a year.
Here are the symptoms to watch out for in both cases:
- Severe headaches
- Neck stiffness
- In addition erythema migrans rashes all over the body
- Severe joint pain and swelling
- Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone in the face)
- Pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpations
- Sensitivity to light
- Impaired vision
- Episodes of dizziness and fatigue
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Short-term memory loss and cognitive decline
If you have been treated for Lyme disease and still experience any of the symptoms above, it’s best to contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor may not be able to heal your symptoms entirely. They can, however, manage your pain with similar techniques to those suffering from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
It can be a long and arduous healing process, but multiple patients have learned how to treat Lyme disease firsthand. Read about some of their success stories here.
Testing for Lyme Disease
If you experience the symptoms listed above for Lyme disease, visit your doctor. They will conduct two tests to confirm your diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Your doctor will need to take a blood sample. Then, this sample will be studied in the laboratory for antibodies against Lyme disease using a testing procedure referred to as “EIA” (enzyme immunoassay).
If the results of this first test are positive or indeterminate, they will conduct the second test using the same blood sample. This test is called an immunoblot test, also known as the “Western blot” test.
If this test returns positive, your doctor will inform you on how to treat Lyme disease and begin treatment.