Lyme Disease

Release date: May 05, 2010

from the Center of Disease Control and Preventions (www.cdc.gov):

About Lyme Disease transmission and symptoms:

The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, normally lives in mice, squirrels and other small animals. It is transmitted among these animals – and to humans – through the bites of certain species of ticks. In the northeastern and north-central United States, the black-legged tick (or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis) transmits Lyme disease. In the Pacific coastal United States, the disease is spread by the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus).

 

The Lyme disease bacterium can infect several parts of the body, producing different symptoms at different times.  Not all patients with Lyme disease will have all symptoms, and many of the symptoms can occur with other diseases as well.  If you believe you may have Lyme disease, it is important that you consult your health care provider for proper diagnosis.

The first sign of infectionis usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM.  This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3-30 days.  A distinctive feature of the rash is that it gradually expands over a period of several days, reaching up to 12 inches (30 cm) across. The center of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a bull's-eye appearance.  It may be warm but is not usually painful.  Some patients develop additional EM lesions in other areas of the body after several days. Patients also experience symptoms of fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.  In some cases, these may be the only symptoms of infection. 

Untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body within a few days to weeks, producing an array of discrete symptoms.  These include loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called facial or "Bell's palsy), severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis, shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat, and pain that moves from joint to joint.  Many of these symptoms will resolve, even without treatment.

 

After several months, approximately 60% of patients with untreated infection will begin to have intermittent bouts of arthritis, with severe joint pain and swelling.  Large joints are most often affected, particularly the knees. In addition, up to 5% of untreated patients may develop chronic neurological complaints months to years after infection.  These include shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, and problems with concentration and short term memory. The Lyme disease bacterium can infect several parts of the body, producing different symptoms at different times. Not all patients with Lyme disease will have all symptoms, and many of the symptoms can occur with other diseases as well. If you believe you may have Lyme disease, it is important that you consult your health care provider for proper diagnosis.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics, especially if treatment is begun early in the course of illness. However, a small percentage of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that last months to years after treatment with antibiotics. These symptoms can include muscle and joint pains, arthritis, cognitive defects, sleep disturbance, or fatigue. The cause of these symptoms is not known. There is some evidence that they result from an autoimmune response, in which a person's immune system continues to respond even after the infection has been cleared.

 

What can YOU do?

-Protect yourself from tick bites by avoiding wooded area, covering your skin, and using insect repellent.

-Check for ticks frequently.

-Removing ticks promptly when found.

-Consult a doctor after tick bites