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Can You Have Lyme Disease And Not Know It

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What Is Lyme Disease

Do you know the signs of Lyme disease?

This bacterial infection is spread through the bite of a young deer tick or black-legged tick. These eight-legged creatures, about the size of a poppy seed, can be found in wooded and grassy areas throughout the United States, especially in New England and the Rocky Mountains.

Because these ticks are so small, most people donât realize when theyâre bitten. But the longer a tick stays attached to you, the more likely it is to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi , if the tick is a carrier.

If not found and treated, Lyme disease can lead to problems with your joints, heart, and nervous system. It can even affect your memory.

Are There Any Diseases That Can Be Misdiagnosed As Lyme Disease

Lots of diseases could be misdiagnosed as Lyme disease. This of course makes sense when you know that Lyme disease itself may manifest as a multisystemic disorder that can mimic other diseases. This means that just as the Lyme disease might be missed in some cases, some individuals may be misdiagnosed as having Lyme disease when in fact they have another disease. Erring on either side of this diagnostic divide can be dangerous. Given that the main symptoms that afflict patients with Lyme disease are fatigue and pain and given that these are non-specific symptoms seen in a wide ranges of diseases, including cancer, hematologic, and endocrine disorders, one has to make sure to rule out other reasonable causes of fatigue and pain before making the diagnosis of Lyme disease. It is also important to realize that a patient can have two independent diseases Lyme disease and another emergent condition. For example, concurrent depression,sleep apnea or hypothyroidism may exacerbate fatigue in a patient with actual Lyme disease.

How Long Does Lyme Disease Treatment Last

Your Lyme disease symptoms can last from 3 to 30 days after being infected. However, if youre treated early with antibiotics, you usually feel better within a few weeks. Lingering symptoms, such as joint or muscle pain, and fatigue, can be experienced for months after treatment for some patients. Some patients experience these symptoms for more than six months after they finish their antibiotics, which is known as chronic Lyme disease.

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Lyme Disease Infection Timeline

Infection time: 24 to 36 HoursIn order to be infected by a tick bite, a tick must be attached for at least 24 hours. If you think thats a long time to not even know you have a tick on you, think again. Nymph ticks are so tiny, they often go unnoticed. Thats why they are the biggest spreaders of Lyme infection. Its easy for a person or a pet to have a tick attached for 24 to 36 hours unnoticed. Some people never know they had a tick attached at all!

Early symptoms begin to show: Within 30 DaysIf a person shows early symptoms of Lyme, it usually occurs within 30 days after infection. The problem is, many never show symptoms, or overlook their symptoms. People, who work outdoors, or spend lots of recreational time outdoors, should be mindful of potential early onset Lyme disease symptoms. Fever, fatigue, and body aches are among the most common symptoms, as well as a bulls eye rash around the tick bite. If symptoms do not occur within 30 days, they can be more severe. Early Lyme disease can be cured with doxycycline. The length of treatment will depend on whether the infection is localized or has begun to spread through the body.

See more tick and Lyme disease questions and answers:

When Should I See My Healthcare Provider

Are Your Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

If you feel sick after having spent time in areas where ticks might live, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

If you received a Lyme disease diagnosis and you dont feel well after taking all of your antibiotics, contact your provider. This is especially true if you have symptoms like a stiff neck or mental confusion.

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Can Lyme Disease Go Away On Its Own

Although the signs and symptoms associated with Lyme disease may clear after a few weeks, without the help of antibiotics, treatment with antibiotics is crucial to avoid any potential damage in the future.

Lyme disease occurs in stages, so in order to avoid it progressing into the later stages, correct treatment is a must.

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Later Signs Of Lyme Disease

What if Lyme disease isnt detected early on? The longer that disease-causing bacteria linger in the body, the more they disseminate, and as these microbes spread to tissues throughout the body, they can trigger a litany of symptoms. CDC says these may include:

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional EM rashes. These lesions may pop up on other areas of the body
  • A type of facial paralysis known as Bells palsy
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling. Knees and other large joints are vulnerable
  • Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet

You might have persistent or episodic symptoms, says Dr. Green. Pain that seems to move through the body? Thats common too. The hallmark of late Lyme is migratory joint pain: today my right knee hurts and tomorrow Im limping on my left ankle, and, oh, my third finger of my right hand swelled up, and, oh, my neck has swelled up, she says.

In rare cases, Lyme disease bacteria can enter the tissues of the heart. This complication, called Lyme carditis, can lead to lightheadedness, fainting, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or chest pain.

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What Happens If Lyme Disease Is Left Untreated

Caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans through tick bites. It is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. In fact, its possible that there are around 476,000 cases per year in the U.S alone according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

A blood test is required to correctly diagnose a suspected Lyme disease case. Without trustworthy testing, Lyme disease cases can go undetected and its possible for people to live with the disease and not realize it – this can cause a number of complications.

Does Lyme Disease Cause Peripheral Neuropathy

Think the Lyme Disease Rash is Always a Bull’s-eye? Think Again! | Johns Hopkins Rheumatology

Yes, patients with Lyme disease may develop “peripheral neuropathy” a dysfunction of the nerves that transmit electrical signals between the body’s periphery and the spinal cord and brain. Common symptoms of Lyme-related neuropathy include multi-site “neuropathic pain” , spinal or radicular pain, distal paresthesias , sensory loss, weakness and hyporeflexia. . These symptoms are often caused by malfunctioning of small “A-delta fibers” and “C fibers” that carry pain and temperature signals. Pathology of the small nerve fibers can also disrupt autonomic functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal functions. Involvement of the cranial nerves can lead to blurry vision, double vision, facial droop, loss of balance, or tinnitus .

The precise mechanisms by which these nerve fibers are damaged in Lyme disease remains a subject of active investigation. Some possibilities include: direct assault on the nerve fibers by spirochetes during periods of active infection immune-mediated damage to the nerve fibers or their protective myelin sheaths by the host’s own innate or adaptive immune system or production of antibodies with accumulation of immune-complexes that disrupt the small vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the metabolically-active peripheral nerves.

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What Can A Workplace Or Home Do To Reduce The Presence Of Ticks

Keep the lawn and yard well maintained to prevent ticks from living near the home or workplace.

  • Keep the grass mowed. Trim trees and shrubs.
  • Remove leaf litter, brush, and weeds at the edge of the lawn, and around stonewalls and woodpiles.
  • Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home to help discourage rodents.
  • Keep stacked firewood piles and bird feeders away from buildings.
  • Keep any pets, particularly dogs, out of the woods and talk to your veterinarian about tick repellents for your pets.
  • Move children’s swing sets and sandboxes away from the woodland’s edge and use a woodchip or mulch foundation.
  • Consider using hard landscape items such as woodchips, mulch, stones, gravel, tile, or metals.
  • Create a border or barrier between the lawn, woods, or stonewalls to discourage deer and rodent activity.
  • Widen woodland trails.

At What Point Do I Stop Antibiotics For The Psychological Symptoms Of Lyme Disease And Conclude That These Symptoms Will Not Go Away

The cause of the psychological symptoms in Lyme disease is unclear. It is clear that patients with acute Lyme disease who develop new onset depressive symptoms or irritability or cognitive disturbances often show a remarkable improvement when given antibiotic therapy. If the psychological symptoms persist or if the initial symptoms are severe, it is very important to consult with a psychiatrist to evaluate how best to treat these symptoms apart from the antibiotic therapy. When symptoms continue even after a repeated course of antibiotic therapy, this could be due to the fact that an activated immune system results in a change in neurotransmitter functioning. As a result, the altered neurotransmitter function may contribute to ongoing depressive symptoms, even after the immune system is no longer activated. Treatment of the psychiatric symptoms at that point would require anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications or psychotherapy.

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Are Some Locations More At Risk Than Others

Yes and no. There are areas in which the bacteria is endemic meaning the disease is established and present more or less continually in that community.

In Canada, blacklegged tick populations have been confirmed or are growing in the following areas:

  • Southern British Columbia.
  • Southern New Brunswick and Grand Manan Island.
  • South shore and northern mainland Nova Scotia.

However, it is important to note that ticks can be spread by birds, in particular songbirds that feed off the forest floor. Because these birds are migratory, there is the potential for new populations of the bacteria to spread across the country. This fact means that you do not have to be in an endemic or high-risk area to be at risk of contacting ticks and the disease.

Lyme Prevention Is Possible

Lyme disease in Canada: What we do and don

There is no Lyme disease vaccine, but there are methods of prevention. Wearing long sleeves and pants when hiking, camping, or working will offer personal tick protection. Wearing clothes treated with permethrin can also help keep ticks away.

At home Lyme prevention is available through reputable tick control companies. Professional Central Mass tick control companies will offer a choice between repellents and insecticides. Repellents will keep ticks away from your yard. EPA-registered pesticides will eliminate ticks. Repellents and insecticides are available in time-released formulas. Time released tick control will give you about two or three weeks of protection at home.

Dont forget to protect your home year-round. Tick tubes offer extended tick control through the fall and winter. Employing this kind of tick control will result in less ticks on your property in the springtime.

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Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • I found a tick embedded in my skin, but I cant get it out. What should I do?
  • Ive been bitten by a tick. Do I need to be seen?
  • Do I need a blood test to confirm Lyme disease?
  • Which antibiotic is best for me?
  • How long will I have to take the antibiotic?
  • What tick or insect repellent should I use for me or my child?
  • How long will the symptoms last?
  • What should I do if I still dont feel well a long time after I was bitten?

Why Is Lyme Disease So Difficult To Diagnose

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of infected deer ticks. One common symptom of Lyme is a red rash on the skin , that appears at the site of a tick bite usually within a week, but up to a month later. Some people may not experience a rash, or may mistake it for a spider bite. Other symptoms like fever, chills, headache, fatigue, joint aches and swollen lymph nodes may occur in the absence of a rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If Lyme is not diagnosed immediately, the bacteria start to spread to other parts of the body the joints, the nervous system and the heart. Eventually, arthritis sets in, along with extreme fatigue and general aches and pains. These can also be symptoms of other conditions, which is part of the reason why Lyme is difficult to diagnose. Aside from the initial rash, there are no symptoms that are specifically indicative of Lyme disease.

Theres also no definitive way to test for Lyme disease. There is no direct blood test for the bacteria that causes Lyme. Doctors have to rely on antibody tests, which merely measure the immune systems response to the bacteria. Further complicating matters, studies have shown that those tests arent always accurate and can have poor sensitivity and false results in some cases.

Until a foolproof test exists, diagnosing Lyme disease, especially late-stage Lyme, is an imperfect science.

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What Tests Are Available For Lyme Disease

When a person becomes infected, the body creates antibodies to protect itself from the bacteria. Certain blood tests are available to measure these antibodies. However, sometimes a “false negative” test can result if there are not enough antibodies in the blood for the tests to detect accurately. A doctor should also do a complete medical examination and gather information about your recent outdoor activities in order to make a clinical diagnosis for Lyme disease.

Could You Have Lyme Disease And Not Even Know It

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The scary truth about this sneaky illness.

After you get home from a glorious summer hike, you probably do a few things: post photos of the great outdoors to Instagram, take a quick shower, and chow down on some post-workout snacks. But if checking yourself for ticks isn’t a part of that routine, you might be leaving yourself open to Lyme disease. “It happens frequently that people have Lyme disease and don’t know it,” says Andrea Gaito, M.D., a rheumatologist with a private practice in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites, especially those from deer ticks. Approximately 70 percent of deer ticks are infected, says Gaito. And those of you in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania should be on high-alert: Your states have the highest rates of Lyme disease, which is much more manageable when caught early on, says Gaito.

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It sounds pretty scary, but there are ways to figure out if you’ve got Lyme disease before it really has its hooks in youor even prevent it in the first place. Here’s what to look out for.

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What Are The Complications Of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease affects people differently. Relapse and incomplete treatment responses happen. Relapse and incomplete treatment responses happen. Complications of untreated early-stage disease include:

  • Frequent hospitalizations to manage the disease

Some of these complications result in chronic, debilitating conditions.

Some people may develop post-Lyme disease syndrome . A condition also known as chronic Lyme disease includes PLDS, but also other syndromes. Usually, these are characterized by persistent musculoskeletal and peripheral nerve pain, fatigue, and memory impairment.

Who’s At Risk Of Lyme Disease

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

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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Lyme Disease: Resolving The Lyme Wars

Its finally getting warm here in New England, and most of us have plans to enjoy the beautiful weather. And thats why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report raising awareness about how to prevent the tickborne infections that typically occur during this time of the year. Lyme disease is probably the most well-known, and the one for which diagnosis and treatment are most controversial.

Diagnosis Testing And Treatment

Does Lyme Disease Cause Bellâs Palsy?

You may have heard that the blood test for Lyme disease is correctly positive only 65% of the time or less. This is misleading information. As with serologic tests for other infectious diseases, the accuracy of the test depends upon how long youve been infected. During the first few weeks of infection, such as when a patient has an erythema migrans rash, the test is expected to be negative.

Several weeks after infection, FDA cleared tests have very good sensitivity.

It is possible for someone who was infected with Lyme disease to test negative because:

  • Some people who receive antibiotics early in disease may not have a fully developed antibody response or may only develop an antibody response at levels too low to be detected by the test.
  • Antibodies against Lyme disease bacteria usually take a few weeks to develop, so tests performed before this time may be negative even if the person is infected. In this case, if the person is retested a few weeks later, they should have a positive test if they have Lyme disease. It is not until 4 to 6 weeks have passed that the test is likely to be positive. This does not mean that the test is bad, only that it needs to be used correctly.
  • If you are pregnant and suspect you have contracted Lyme disease, contact your physician immediately.

    * Silver HM. Lyme disease during pregnancy. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1997 Mar 11:93-7.

    The most common co-infections that occur with Lyme disease are anaplasmosis and babesiosis. In general:

    References:

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