What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a kind of disease that is caused by a tick. It is a bacterial disease and is spread by infected ticks. Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium that is responsible for causing this disease. It is also called as ‘deer tick’ as it mainly feeds on deer. People living in grassy or densely wooded sections are likely to get this disease.
What are the Common Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
The symptoms of this disease are varied and usually impact more than a single system. The early signs may be visible within a month of the infection and generally include:
- Rash: A small bump may be seen at the place of the bite by the tick. Initially it may not signify Lyme disease as a rash is a normal reaction after bite from a tick. In case the bump expands into a rash that is similar to the pattern of a bull’s eye, it may indicate Lyme disease. This rash is named erythema migrans. The bump is red in color while its outer ring is usually clear.
- Flu like signs: Fatigue, fever, body ache, chills, and headache can be felt.
Symptoms that can be noticed at a later period include:
- Joint pain: Severe pain in the joints can be experienced along with swelling. The most commonly affected area is the knee. This pain may be experienced several weeks after the bite.
- Neurological problems: This disease can have an impact on the nervous system resulting in symptoms like meningitis, Bell’s palsy, weakened muscle movement, and numbness in limbs.
What are the Treatments for Lyme Disease?
The diagnosis of Lyme disease is a little difficult as most of its signs are similar to other diseases. The simplest way would be for the doctor to check the rash. Certain tests can be done few days after the infection to check for any antibodies. Antibiotics provide a quick and complete recovery from the disease. These antibiotics are of two types:
- Oral antibiotics: They are usually used for the initial stages of the disease. They contain doxycycline for children above 8 years and adults. Cefuroxime or amoxicillin is recommended for pregnant women and young children. This course is to be followed for 14 to 21 days.
- Intravenous antibiotics: These antibiotics are prescribed when the disease affects the central nervous system. The dosage can last anywhere between a fortnight to a month. Though these antibiotics are helpful in stopping the infection, they have certain side effects.
What are the Prognosis and Preventions?
Antibiotics help in curing the disease if detected in initial stages. There can be complications related to the nervous system, heart, and joints. But they are still curable. There is a rare chance of the patient continuing to show the symptoms of the disease after the treatment.
The following are the preventive measures that you can take:
- Try to avoid getting into bushy and densely wooded areas.
- Cover yourself completely. Make sure you are wearing shirts with long sleeves and full pants.
- Apply an insect repellent before entering such areas.
- Keep your yard tick-proof by cleaning it regularly.
- Take a shower immediately after coming back from the area.
- Use tweezers to remove* any ticks on your body.
- Check your pets and kids as well for ticks.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have been conducting research on this disease for more than two decades. Its goal is to create major developments in treating, preventing, and diagnosing the disease. A wide range of programs have been designed for creating awareness regarding the disease.
The current research group is working on the topics of antibiotic therapy, diagnostic procedures, and transmission of the disease, vaccines, as well as co-infection.