Lyme Disease Frequently Asked Questions
If you have not done so already, remove the tick with fine-tipped tweezers.
The chances that you might get Lyme disease from a single tick bite depend on the type of tick, where you acquired it, and how long it was attached to you. Many types of ticks bite people in the U.S., but only blacklegged ticks transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Furthermore, only blacklegged ticks in the highly endemic areas of the northeastern and north central U.S. are commonly infected. Finally, blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. This is why its so important to remove them promptly and to check your body daily for ticks if you live in an endemic area.
If you develop illness within a few weeks of a tick bite, see your health care provider right away. Common symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash, fever, body aches, facial paralysis, and arthritis. Ticks can also transmit other diseases, so its important to be alert for any illness that follows a tick bite.
Moody KD, Barthold SW, 1991. Relative infectivity of Borrelia burgdorferi in Lewis rats by various routes of inoculation.Am J Trop Med Hyg 44: 135-9.
There are no reports of Lyme disease being spread to infants through breast milk. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease and are also breastfeeding, make sure that your doctor knows this so that he or she can prescribe an antibiotic thats safe for use when breastfeeding.
How To Prevent Lyme Disease From Progressing
Learn the symptoms of early Lyme disease so that you can seek treatment promptly if you contract the infection. If you get timely treatment, you can avoid the potential complications of early disseminated Lyme disease and later stages.
- rash, such as:
- a red, expanding bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite
- a round or oval rash that can be as wide as 6 to 8 inches
Late Stage Lyme Disease: Symptoms And Treatment
There are three stages of Lyme disease. If you are experiencing the symptoms in the late stage, that means you have already passed through the first two stages of early localized and early disseminated Lyme disease.
During the early localized phase, you may have had a rash associated with the bite given by the infected tick. Symptoms following the bite may have included chills, fever, headaches, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle soreness, and possibly swollen lymph nodes.
If you did not receive the right treatment at the onset, you quickly moved into the next stage. During the early disseminated phase, the Lyme infection started spreading through your body.
Symptoms in the second stage include all of the signs from the early localized stage, only worse. You may also experience vision problems, pain or weakness in your limbs, heart palpitations, and facial paralysis such as bells palsy.
If left untreated, stage two will turn into late stage Lyme disease.
If you are in stage three, or the late disseminated stage, you have been struggling with symptoms for a long while and without treatment specific to Lyme disease.
The symptoms of late stage Lyme disease are genuine and can interfere with daily functioning.
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What Can I Expect Long Term If My Child Has Lyme Disease
If Lyme disease is caught and treated early, most children will make a full recovery. Some children with Lyme disease go on to experience what’s called a post-infectious syndrome with symptoms that may include feeling fatigue, joint aches and pains, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and problems concentrating. Since the infection itself is gone by this time, doctors generally don’t prescribe antibiotics. Each child is different, but it’s not uncommon for symptoms of post-infectious syndrome to linger for months, or even years, and they can be made worse by stress or other illness. But most children do make a full recovery.
Blacklegged, or deer, ticks are very small, so it helps to know what to look for when doing a tick check. Adults are about the size of sesame seeds and in the nymph or larva stage, they can be as tiny as a poppy seeds.
Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection thats caused by a bite from a blacklegged tick.
Early disseminated Lyme disease is the phase of Lyme disease in which the bacteria that cause this condition have spread throughout the body. This stage can occur days, weeks, or even months after an infected tick bites you.
There are three stages of Lyme disease. Early disseminated Lyme disease is the second stage.
- Stage 1: Early localized Lyme disease. This occurs within several days of a tick bite. Symptoms may include redness at the site of the tick bite along with fever, chills, muscle aches, and skin irritation.
- Stage 2: Early disseminated Lyme disease. This occurs within weeks of a tick bite. The untreated infection begins spreading to other parts of the body, producing a variety of new symptoms.
- Stage 3: Late disseminated Lyme disease. This occurs months to years after an initial tick bite, when bacteria have spread to the rest of the body. During this stage, many people experience cycles of arthritis and joint pain along with neurological symptoms such as shooting pain, numbness in the extremities, and problems with short-term memory.
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Stage : Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
Stage 3 or late disseminated Lyme disease is the final stage of the disease. A person may enter this stage if they did not receive treatment for Lyme disease in the early stages, or if their symptoms persisted despite treatment. As such, doctors sometimes refer to this stage as chronic or post-treatment Lyme disease .
Stage 3 Lyme disease can occur after an infected tick bites a person.
A person with stage 3 Lyme disease may experience additional symptoms, including:
- severe joint pain and swelling, known as chronic Lyme arthritis
- heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, due to Lyme carditis
- inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- mental fogginess
What Happens At Your Appointment
The GP will ask about your symptoms and consider any rash or recent tick bites you know about.
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose. It has similar symptoms to other conditions and there’s not always an obvious rash.
2 types of blood test are available to help confirm or rule out Lyme disease. But these tests are not always accurate in the early stages of the disease.
You may need to be retested if you still have Lyme disease symptoms after a negative result.
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What Causes Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by infection with the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. In regions of the U.S. where Lyme disease is common, risk factors for getting bitten by a tick include:
- Spending a lot of time outdoors
- Proximity to areas between forest land and lawns, particularly if the area contains low-lying grasses or shrubs
Ticks can also attach to pets who may bring them into the home. The pet may become infected with Lyme disease. If the tick does not attach to the pet, it can attach to a human and transmit the infection.
Does Lyme Disease Stay In Your Body Forever
Lyme disease is a treatable, bacterial infection that does not last forever. However, some people may experience lingering effects, or after-effects, for months or even years following treatment. This is not technically considered chronic Lyme disease, as the infection has been resolved however, some alternative medicine providers may use this term. The after-effects of Lyme disease can vary depending on the individual, but may include fatigue, joint pain, and cognitive difficulties. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after being treated for Lyme disease, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action.
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Can Chronic Lyme Be Cured Dr Christine Green Answers Your Questions
Christine Green, MD, is a Stanford-trained, board-certified family medicine physician with 30 years of experience treating patients with tick-borne illness.
On the board of LymeDisease.org, Dr. Green is also Co-director of Education for Invisible International,, is on Bay Area Lyme Foundations Scientific Advisory Board and has served on the Education Committee for ILADS.
In this Q& A, she discusses common questions asked by patients about diagnosing and treating Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
Does Lyme Disease Affect The Brain
Lyme disease can cause a wide range of neurological problems, including cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and even seizures. Lyme spirochetes can damage nerve cells and trigger inflammation in the brain. They can also release neurotoxins that can disrupt the balance of brain chemicals.
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Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by ticks. When you are outdoors, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid areas that are wooded, brushy, or have tall grass.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Use an insect repellent with at least 20% DEET. It can be put on clothing or sparingly on the skin. Dont apply it to the face or hands of children.
- Treat clothing, tents, or other gear with repellents containing 0.5% permethrin.
- Wear light-colored clothing. This makes it easier to see and remove ticks from your clothes.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots for added protection.
After you get home, check everything and everyone for ticks.
- Bathe or shower as soon as you can to wash off any ticks that have not attached to you.
- Check your entire body for ticks. Use a mirror for places you cant see. Check your children and your pets. Common tick locations include the back of the knees, groin area, underarms, ears, scalp, and the back of the neck.
- Check any gear you used, including coats, backpacks, or tents.
Tumble dry clothes or blankets on high heat in the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes. This should kill any ticks. If clothes are dirty, wash them in hot water and dry on high heat for 60 minutes.
Who’s At Risk And Where Are Ticks Found
The risk of getting Lyme disease is higher:
- for people who spend time in woodland or moorland areas
- from March to October because more people take part in outdoor activities
Ticks are found throughout the UK and in other parts of Europe and North America. There are a high number of ticks in the Scottish Highlands.
It’s thought only a small proportion of ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Being bitten doesn’t mean you’ll definitely be infected. However, it’s important to be aware of the risk and speak to a GP if you start to feel unwell.
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Symptoms Of Late Stage Lyme Disease
Your suffering has moved from an occasional inflammation flare-up to chronic pain in your muscles, tendons, and joints. You may have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Your headaches have become severe. You may even experience dizziness or vertigo.
Additional symptoms include a stiff neck, sleep disorders like insomnia, and numbness in your outer extremities. You may also lack the ability to focus, and paying attention when having conversations has become difficult. Your fatigue is so bad you sometimes do not want to attempt getting out of bed.
The worse symptom may be that you have tried to get the right help, but doctors have failed to give you an accurate diagnosis. Because of this, you may feel like you are crazy, or your friends and family may not believe you are in pain.
You may be wondering how you were able to reach late stage Lyme disease without proper treatment.
What Should I Do If I Find A Tick On My Child
Don’t panic. First Lyme disease is spread by the black-legged tick, not by the larger and more-common dog tick. The risk of developing Lyme disease after a black-legged tick bite is low, especially if the tick has been attached for a short time.
If you find a tick on your child, remove it using a fine-tipped pair of tweezers. Grasp the body of the tick and pull in an upward motion until the tick comes out. Do not squeeze or twist the ticks body. Take note of the ticks size and color, and how long you think it has been attached to your child.
If your child has been bitten by a black-legged tick that has been attached for more than 24 hours and you are in a Lyme disease endemic area, consult with your pediatrician. In some cases, your child may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease from developing.
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Outlook For Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
If you receive a diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics at this stage, you can expect to be cured of Lyme disease. Without treatment, complications can occur. Treatments are available for the complications.
In rare cases, you may experience a continuation of Lyme disease symptoms after antibiotic treatment. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome .
Some people who were treated for Lyme disease report muscle and joint pain, cognitive difficulties, sleep issues, or fatigue after their treatments were finished.
The cause of this is unknown. However, researchers believe it may be due to an autoimmune response in which your immune system attacks healthy tissues. It may also be linked to an ongoing infection with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
The practices below can reduce your likelihood of contracting Lyme disease and having it progress to the early disseminated stage.
Q: Once Diagnosed How Should You Treat Lyme Disease
Research over the last three decades suggests that Lyme bacteria have multiple ways of evading the human immune system and that treating acute Lyme with 21 days of antibiotics fails approximately a third of patients.
For that reason, I treat in two phases. For early Lyme, I treat with four weeks of doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime antibiotics.
I follow this up with four more weeks of drugs that prevent and eradicate persister forms of the bacteria. The persisters are drug-tolerant and can revert to an active infection once the antibiotics are stopped.
I aggressively treat late-Lyme patients who have severe degenerative neurologic or rheumatologic cases. As noted above, the very sick patients frequently have a mixture of tick-borne infections.
For these patients, I choose a combination of oral or, when needed, intravenous antibiotics that target the pathogens known to be present.
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Is There A Cure For Late Stage Lyme Disease
Late stage Lyme disease is the third and final stage of a Lyme infection. It is referred to as stage 3 Lyme disease or rather late disseminated Lyme disease. This stage of the infection should not be taken lightly as it can be disabling and even life-threatening. Nonetheless, death from Lyme disease is a rare occurrence. The seriousness of Lyme disease lies on the severity of the symptoms one is experiencing and for how long one has been infected. If it is not treated promptly and appropriately, then Lyme disease can become chronic, which then makes it harder to treat. Since there is no definitive way to prove that one is Lyme free after antibiotic treatment, the course of treatment may be prolonged. This can be done until one no longer exhibits any symptoms of a Lyme infection.
Late Persistent Lyme Disease
Late persistent Lyme disease usually occurs in those who did not receive early treatment. It’s the most severe stage and can occur months to years following the initial infection. Damage to the joints, nerves, and brain is possible if not treated.
Muscle and joint pain is the most common complaint of those in late-stage Lyme disease, affecting 80% of untreated people. Lyme arthritis, which occurs in 50% of cases, can cause swelling and pain, usually in one knee, but can be present in both knees or other large joints.
Various neurological symptoms can occur depending on the area of the nervous system affected. Some symptoms may be similar to stage 2 but can be more extensive, severe, or longer-lasting. If the infection has traveled to the brain, you may experience:
- Difficulty following conversations and processing information
- Mental fogginess
- Trouble sleeping
- Vertigo or dizziness
Oral antibiotics are typically used for Lyme arthritis, while intravenous antibiotics treat neurologic issues. The length of therapy can be two to four weeks, depending on the symptoms.
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How Long Does Lyme Disease Last Untreated
If left untreated, Lyme disease can last for several weeks or even longer. The symptoms may come and go during this time, and the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, heart, and joints. Therefore, it is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you think you may have Lyme disease.
What Is The Best Treatment For Lyme Disease
The best treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, and antibiotics are the only proven treatment for this infection. Lyme disease can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain, and fatigue. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to more serious problems, such as neurological problems and arthritis.
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