Lyme disease is caused by very small creatures known as ticks. This can be a very serious condition; however most people will recover completely when they are treated correctly. This article looks at the very latest and best information to tell you about Lyme disease and give you some insight on the various treatments that are available.
What is it?
As mentioned above Lyme disease is a condition that is spread by very small little creatures called ticks. Ticks are said to look a little bit like very small spiders and they live on the skin of other animals. These ticks can carry around bacteria that can spread into our bloodstream if they are to bite you. These bacteria can be very dangerous for us and can make us ill if treatment is not sought. There is a certain type of tick that can give you Lyme disease and they are known as deer ticks. They get their name as they are often found living on deer.
It is important to note that not all ticks carry the Lyme disease. Also a tick must stay on your skin for around an entire day in order for it to infect you with the disease. If you notice that there is a tick on your skin then you will need to remove it. To do this you should pull the tick off your skin and then wipe the area where the tick was with an antiseptic such as a rubbing alcohol.
By far the most common symptom that is found in Lyme disease is a red or pink rash that appears about one or two weeks after the tick bite. The rash generally appears in the area where you were bitten and then spreads out to affect more of the body. Many people will get a bull’s eye rash pattern with red and white rings. Not everyone gets a rash and in those who do not they may notice flu like symptoms. After a few weeks or even months the infection can spread to affect your joints and nerves. In this case you may notice that you lose control of some of the muscles of the face.
You may also get numbness or pain in your body, or have difficulty moving body parts. If you fail to get treated then you may get swelling in the joints, this is known as Lyme arthritis. Some people who have this disease get meningitis. This is where the tissue that lines the brain and spinal cord becomes inflamed. The meningitis that you get with Lyme disease is generally less serious than other forms of meningitis; however it is still a medical emergency. Rarely Lyme disease can cause heart problems and fortunately these can be treated.
One of the most important things is to prevent the ticks from latching on and biting in the first place. If you are spending lots of time in areas where deer are common such as wooded or grassy areas; you should wear long sleeved shirts and long trousers that are tucked into your socks. You may also find it useful to spray your clothes with an insect repellent or a chemical known as permethrin. If you wear light colored clothing then you may find it easier to locate and then remove ticks. If you have spent time in an area where there may be ticks then you should brush off or wash your clothes as soon as possible.
You should check your body for the presence of ticks, particularly in the skin folds where they can hide quite effectively. Ticks can also conceal themselves into hairy areas and so these should also be checked. Young ticks are around the size of a poppy seed and adult ticks are around the size of a coffee bean. No matter what the size if you see a tick then you must remove it right away.
If you are found to have Lyme disease then you will be treated with antibiotics. These are medications that help to fight off bacteria in the body. If you take these as soon as you notice symptoms then it is very likely that you will be completely better in no time. It is most likely that you will be given antibiotics in tablet form for at least two weeks and you must ensure that you finish all of the tablets even if you are feeling better.
Doctors usually prescribe amoxicillin and doxycycline. It is also possible that antibiotics can be used to prevent Lyme disease. If you have been bitten by a tick and you take a course of these antibiotics within three days then there is a good chance that you may not develop symptoms at all. It is true that the risk of getting Lyme disease from a single tick bite is very small and so doctors may not like the idea of you taking them every time. Antibiotics are also used in the treatment of late stage Lyme disease when you suffer from symptoms such as arthritis.
One study found that one in three people with Lyme disease arthritis were cured with antibiotics. If the Lyme disease has gone on to affect your joints then you may need to take antibiotics via a drip in your vein. Also you should note that antibiotics can have side effects; however they are usually mild and it is certainly better to put up with a few side effects than suffering from the consequences of Lyme disease. If you are allergic to penicillin then you must let your doctor know as you will not be able to take amoxicillin. Doxycycline can cause you to be more sensitive to sunlight and so you may need to avoid this when you are on it.
If this disease is treated early then you will most likely recover completely. If you do get a rash or flu-like illness and there is a possibility that you could have been bitten by a tick then you must visit your doctor immediately. If symptoms do not clear up after taking the antibiotics then your doctor will probably prescribe you a different antibiotic or suggest that you take them for a longer period of time.
There are many people who do not get treated and make a full recovery; however it is not worth taking the risk as the consequences can be very distressing. Damage that can occur will affect how you are able to move your body and a few people who suffer from this disease go on to get long term nerve damage. In one out of every ten people who get Lyme arthritis they will still have swollen and painful joints for months or up to years after treatment. There are also some people who get very tired and suffer pain for months of years after treatment and this is sometimes known as post-Lyme syndrome.