Essential Things You Should Know About Lyme Disease July 25 2022

Lyme, named after the Connecticut town in which it was first discovered in 1975, is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, carried and transmitted by ticks. Ticks are found in the woods and tall grasses of suburban and rural areas of North America and Europe and are not usually found in the arid desert or tropical rainforests. 

Transmission typically occurs during the spring and summer, when ticks are most active and often difficult to see. Repellents, long clothing, and frequent checks of skin and hair are the best prevention methods. 

Lyme disease symptoms include rashes, a headache, fever, and swollen lymph nodes, which may come and go over weeks or months. Foul-smelling “Lyme arthritis,” a condition that causes joint pain and swelling, is also common. 

In this article, let's take a closer look at Lyme disease and some essential things you should know about it.

Here is a simple guide:

How Does Lyme Disease Occur? 

Certain ticks carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. Lyme disease is most common in mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast. Ticks pick up the disease after feeding on infected animals, especially deer. In some areas, the ticks are also infected with a virus that can cause a mild winter rash.

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease usually starts with a skin rash called erythema migrans, or EM for short. The rash, which looks like a bruise, appears at the bite site and then spreads to nearby lymph nodes, often within days or weeks.

The rash is rarely itchy or painful, but you should still see your doctor if you develop it. EM typically expands to a diameter of 5 to 15 centimeters (about 2 to 6 inches), but not every rash is the same. There are also early and late forms of the rash. In the early stage, the rash may have a clear center with red edges, while in the late stage, it becomes red, with a dark center.

How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosing Lyme disease can be difficult. It can be confused with other diseases, such as different types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, accurate laboratory tests for Lyme disease are not yet available. At this time, a positive diagnosis must be made by clinical features (symptoms), not by laboratory tests.

In addition to the typical rash, which can be found in about 70 percent of patients with early Lyme disease, the most common sign is a slowly expanding “bull’s eye” rash called erythema migrans. It usually starts as a red patch and gradually enlarges to cover a large area, usually around three inches. Most patients develop other symptoms within a few days of the appearance of this rash.

Lyme Disease is More Common Than You Think 

You’ve probably heard stories about people getting bitten by ticks and contracting Lyme disease. But Lyme disease is much more prevalent than most people think. It is the fastest-growing vector-borne disease in the United States and has infected roughly 300,000 Americans annually.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there is ten times the number of people infected with Lyme disease than is reported, with the numbers growing by nearly 19 percent each year. 

Moreover, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported disease in the Northeast. Still, it is also the most underreported vector-borne disease in the U.S. The CDC has even gotten involved to educate the public and health care providers about what to look for and not to overlook.

The Bottom Line

Prevention is key to avoiding Lyme disease, as is knowing the symptoms. Unfortunately, ticks are hard to see, and people often do not realize they have been bitten. A common myth is that deer ticks cannot transmit Lyme disease if attached for less than 24 hours.

The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to protect yourself from ticks, avoid areas with large numbers of ticks, and get rid of ticks immediately if you find one on yourself or your child.

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