Lyme disease – Symptoms, treatment and diagnosis

Lyme disease is an infectious bacterial disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria which is spread to humans by a bite from the black-legged or deer tick.

It is a very common disease in the United States and a greater part of Europe.

If this disease is identified earlier it can be treated but if not, it will lead to other secondary infections like weakness of joints.

Lyme disease - symptoms and treatment

Leaving in grassy and woodland areas can easily predispose you to this infection.

Scientists have also stated that, for this infection to occur, the tick should stay on the skin for a minimum of 36 hours. Most people will not even recognize the presence of a tick on their skin.

SYMPTOMS OF LYME DISEASE

The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from one individual to another. But there are few signs and symptoms that are almost common with all Lyme patients.

The common signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are;

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Neck stiffness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pain in the joints or muscles
  • Bull’s eye pattern rash normally known as erythema migrans

STAGES OF LYME DISEASE

Lyme disease has three main development stages;

  • Early localized disease (acute)
  • Early disseminated Lyme
  • Late disseminated Lyme (post-treatment, chronic and neurological)

Early localized disease

This is the first stage of Lyme disease.

Lyme always begins anytime between 3 days to 30 days after getting infected by the tick.

The earliest sign that is usually witnessed in most Lyme patients is a bull’s eye pattern rash that usually develops in the area that was bitten by the tick. Sometimes this rash doesn’t appear on other people.

Lyme is considered to be very easy to treat at this stage.

More symptoms of Lyme associated with this stage are;

  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Bull’s eye pattern skin rash
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Stiff neck

Early disseminated Lyme

The early disseminated stage appears a few weeks or months after the tick bite.

At this stage, the bacteria have started spreading all over the body.

Symptoms at this stage can overlap with those in stage 1 but there is an increase in signs and symptoms experienced and witnessed.

The common symptoms of Lyme disease at this stage are;

  • A rash develops in multiple areas
  • Facial paralysis – this is the inability to move some muscles of the face. This will affect the opening of the mouth and other parts.
  • Vision changes
  • Heart problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Meningitis
  • Numbness in the arms and legs
  • Pain on the joints
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Vision changes

Late disseminated Lyme

If the Lyme disease is not effectively treated in the first two stages, the third stage and the final one occurs.

Late disseminate Lyme stage can occur after several weeks, months or even years of infection.

The bacteria at this stage has fully spread to every part of the body

At this stage, patients start having chronic symptoms and secondary infections also develop.

The common signs and symptoms of Lyme at this stage are;

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Lapses in heart rhythms
  • Stiff and paining neck
  • Arthritis on the joints or near the part that was bitten by the tick
  • Concentration issues develop
  • Brain fog
  • Sleep disturbances and sometimes insomnia develops
  • On and off pains in the joints and tendons
  • Legs, hands, arms, and feet become numb
  • Severe fatigue
  • Problem with following conversations
  • Short term memory loss might occur
  • Severe headache

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CAN LYME DISEASE BE SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED OR BE SPREAD THROUGH CONTACT?

There is no scientific and evident study that has documented Lyme to be sexually transmittable. Lyme cannot be spread through, sex, kissing, touching, sharing a plate or any other activity that just involves spreading the disease from one person

This disease can only be gotten if bitten by an infected tick.

DOES LYME DISEASE STAY WITH YOU FOREVER?

If Lyme is treated appropriately, it will clear off after completion of the treatment. In some people, the after-effects sign can stay for some time longer, either months or years before clearing off.

The key thing to getting rid of this disease is seeking effective treatment.

CAN LYME TRIGGER AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE?

According to research published in Arthritis and Rheumatology, it is evident that Lyme disease can trigger an autoimmune disease after it has been treated. This diseases that develop after include; Rheumatoid Arthritis(RA), Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) and SpondyloArthritis (SpA).

DIAGNOSIS/TESTS

Carrying out a diagnosis for this disease can be very difficult because there are other diseases that also show the same signs and symptoms

For people who will not develop the rash, it will be very difficult to know if they have Lyme disease at a glance and therefore the doctor will have to go the extra mile.

The doctor will have to ask if the person has ever been to areas that are prone to this disease.

Several lab tests can also e carried out to identify antibodies that are linked to the bacteria and this will either confirm or rule out the Lyme disease.

These tests include;

  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test – This is the most common test that is used to detect Lyme disease. This test can sometimes bring false results, especially when the disease is at the early stages. This test detects the antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Western blood test – This test is usually carried out if ELISA test results are positive. This test is also used to detect antibodies to several proteins of Borrelia burgdorferi

TREATMENT OF LYME

Treatment of Lyme disease at the first stage is easier as long as appropriate antibiotics are used.

The types of antibiotics used in the treatment of Lyme are;

  • Oral antibiotics – This is the recommended treatment for early-stage Lyme disease. Drugs recommended are; Amoxicillin which is taken for approximately 2 – 3 weeks, Doxycycline which is taken for 10 -21 days and Cefuroxime axetil which is taken for 2 -3 weeks.
  • Intravenous antibiotics – This type of treatment is recommended if the infection involves the nervous system. This treatment is administered for 2 – 4 weeks and it eliminates the disease completely. Though this treatment procedure has side effects such as; lowering white blood cell count, mild diarrhea, and other diseases that are unrelated to Lyme might develop.

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