Lyme Disease: Cause, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

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Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi which is transmitted through tick bites. The tick becomes infected after feeding on infected deer or mice. This condition can infect and interfere with various organs of the body.

To transmit infection, the tick must stick to one’s skin for 24-48 hours. Although the time needed to transmit bacteria to someone is long enough, most people with Lyme do not remember being bitten by the tick.

Treatment that is done as effectively and as soon as possible will guarantee a faster healing process. If left unchecked, the symptoms of Lyme disease will develop increasingly severe and prolonged.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease has a variety of symptoms that appear gradually. The following is the distribution of symptoms of Lyme disease based on the stage or extent of disease progression:

Stage 1: Early localized disease

At this stage, symptoms usually begin to appear 1 or 2 weeks after tick bites. One of the earliest symptoms is a rash shaped (bull’s-eye rash) which is a sign that bacteria are multiplying in the bloodstream.

This rash called Erythema Migraine appears at the site of the bite, looks like a red dot surrounded by a clean area, which at the edges is red again. This rash is usually neither painful nor itchy, but feels warm when touched. Generally, this rash will disappear on its own in 4 weeks.

Stage 2: Early disseminated Lyme disease

This stage occurs several weeks after tick bites. At this stage, bacteria have begun to spread throughout the body, causing flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Shivering
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Visual impairment

Beside symptoms such as flu, at this stage sufferers will show symptoms, such as:

  • A rash may appear in areas other than the tick bite.
  • Neurological signs such as tingling and numbness.
  • Bell’s palsy.
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Stage 3: Late disseminated Lyme disease

This stage occurs if the infection is not treated in stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 can appear in a matter of weeks, months, or even years after tick bites. This stage has characteristics, such as:

  • Great headache
  • Arthritis in one or more large joints
  • Heart rhythm disorders
  • Brain disorders such as encephalopathy
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Interference in engaging in conversation
  • Concentration difficulty
  • Mental disorders
  • Numbness on the feet or hands

Causes and Risk Factors of Lyme Disease

A person can get infected with the bacteria that causes lyme disease if the person is bitten by a deer tick, also known as a black-legged tick. The tick must also be infected to be able to transmit it to humans. Tick can become infected if they bite an infected deer or mouse.

Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii are the most common causes of lyme disease in the United States, whereas in Europe and Asia, lyme disease is most often caused by Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii.

The following are risk factors for lyme disease, namely:

  • Doing activities on the trees and grass area.
  • Not wearing clothes that protect the skin so that the skin is vulnerable to exposure.
  • The ticks is not removed properly, so that bacteria can still enter.

Diagnosis of Lyme Disease

The diagnosis of lyme disease is based on interviews and physical examinations. Blood tests are less accurate until a few weeks after the first infection. This is because antibodies to the bacteria that cause lyme disease are only formed after a few weeks. Frequent checks are:

  • ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) which is useful for the detection of antibodies against B. burgdorferi.
  • Western blots to confirm positive results from the ELISA test.  It checks for the presence of antibodies to specific B. burgdorferi proteins.
  • PCR or Polymerase Chain Reaction can also be performed to evaluate individuals with arthritis or persistent nerve symptoms. The sample used is joint fluid or cerebrospinal fluid.
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Treatment of Lyme Disease

Treatment of Lyme is best done at the initial stage. Early treatment, such as oral antibiotics for 14-21 days, is effective in eliminating the infection completely. The following are medicines used to treat lyme disease:

  • Doxycycline for adults or children over the age of 8 years.
  • Cefuroxime and amoxicillin for adults, children and pregnant and lactating mothers.

Intravenous antibiotics are often needed to treat persistent or chronic lyme disease. Intravenous antibiotics are also given within 14-21 days and can eliminate infection, although symptoms that already exist may not immediately disappear.

Prevention of Lyme Disease

Prevention of lyme disease is generally done by minimizing the possibility of tick bite exposure, including by:

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves when doing activities outside.
  • Set a ticks-free home yard by cleaning the wood and putting it in a place that is exposed to the sun. In addition, pruning the grass regularly and keeping it from growing too long.
  • Use insect repellents with a 10 percent DEET that can protect for 2 hours. Do not apply repeated insect repellents if you are in outside for more than 2 hours.
  • checks for ticks on the skin regularly
  • Remove the tick using tweezers, pin it in the head or mouth and pull it carefully. Make sure the entire body of the tick is removed.

If the above methods of handling and prevention do not work, you can immediately check with your doctor. Read also another article on USA Health Articles.

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