Knowing The Symptoms To Look For Can Help Diagnose Lyme Disease Early On When It’s Easily Treatable
Fever or fatigue, with or without a rash, can be a symptom of many thingsand Lyme disease is just one possibility. To diagnose Lyme, doctors say they have to consider symptoms and circumstances. If youve been hanging out in wooded or grassy areas, especially in certain regions of the country during the spring, summer, or even autumn months, it might make sense to entertain the possibility that you were bitten by a tick. And whats the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in America? Its Lyme disease, by far.
But Timothy P. Flanagan, MD, associate professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division at Brown Universitys Alpert Medical School, says it would be a mistake to latch on to a Lyme diagnosis without ruling out other possible causes, including other infections transmitted by ticks. You could have a different tick-borne infection entirely, such as anaplasmosis or babesiosis, or you could have Lyme with one or more co-infections. Thats because the same ticks that transmit Borrelia can carry other disease-causing microbes, too.
Its super important that we think of all the tick-borne diseasesnot just Lyme, Dr. Flanagan tells Health. Babesia, a parasite that causes babesiosis, is treated differently than Borrelia, for example.
What Causes Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of the tiny black-legged, or deer, tick found in the Eastern and Central U.S., and the western black-legged tick in the Pacific West. The riskiest months for Lyme disease are May through September, when young ticks are likely to be biting.
In humans, the bacteria may cause flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, it may attack many tissues — including the heart and nervous system — and trigger an immune response that can lead to Lyme arthritis.
What Should I Do If I Am Bitten By A Tick
If you experience a tick bite, the best way to remove it is by taking the following steps:
- Tug gently but firmly with blunt tweezers near the “head” of the tick at the level of your skin until it releases its hold on the skin.
- Avoid crushing the tick’s body or handling the tick with bare fingers as you could exposure yourself to the bacteria in the tick.
- Wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water.
- DO NOT use kerosene, petroleum jelly , or hot cigarette butts to remove the tick.
- DO NOT squeeze the tick’s body with your fingers or tweezers.
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Lyme Disease: More Common And More Dangerous Than You Think
Lyme disease outbreaks are already being reported this spring, and experts say theres a long way to go before we grasp the scope and impact of this serious tick-borne illness.
In the early 1990s, Dr. Neil Spector began experiencing odd symptoms.
At times, his heart would beat 200 times a minute. He also suffered crippling fatigue and had brain fog so intense he once gave a lecture and had no recollection of it.
Blood tests showed his body was producing high levels of antibodies, but specialists couldnt determine what was triggering his immune systems response.
It said my body was mounting a defense against something, Spector told Healthline. They just kept chalking it up to stress.
More symptoms began appearing slow heartbeat, arthritis pain, and burning in his heels but experts dismissed Spectors theory that they could be signs of Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne infection in humans.
Spectors symptoms began right after he moved from Boston to Miami, but Lyme disease is uncommon in Florida. Spector said he doesnt remember ever having the trademark bulls-eye rash of Lyme disease.
Spector, an associate professor of oncology at the Duke University School of Medicine, had no formal training in Lyme disease, but that changed as he searched for an explanation for his symptoms.
I dont think I have Lyme disease anymore, but the damage to my heart was already done by the time I was diagnosed, he said.
What Is The Treatment For Lyme Disease
Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover quickly and completely. Antibiotics commonly used for treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. Patients with certain neurologic or cardiac forms of illness may require additional treatment. It is important to speak with your health care provider if you think you might have Lyme disease. The best treatment for Lyme disease is prevention and awareness.
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Treatment For Lyme Disease Symptoms
Doctors say the sooner you notice symptoms, the better your outcome. People treated in the early stages of Lyme generally make a full, rapid recovery, the CDC notes.
Antibiotics are recommended for most people with Lyme disease, but what that regimen looks like varies widely from person to person. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says a short course of an oral antibiotic, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin, can clear up Lyme infection in most cases. However, the particular drug, dosage, and duration your doctor recommends may depend on factors such as:
- Your age
- Whether you are pregnant
- Allergies to medications
Even after treatment, some people report lingering symptoms. They may have persistent pain, muscle and joint aches, unexplained numbness, and fatigue, for example. Brain fog and sleep disruption are also common, says Dr. Flanagan. These sputtering symptoms can stretch over a few months, he says, but they will get better graduallyit can take time: two steps forward, one step back.
Symptoms that persist for more than six months may lead to what the CDC calls post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome . The CDC says people with PTLDS can get better in time, but it can take months. Some doctors recommend prolonged antibiotic treatment. However, CDC cautions that long-term courses of antibiotics can actually be dangerous.
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Getting A Lyme Disease Diagnosis
One of the biggest difficulties doctors run into when diagnosing Lyme disease is that there is not currently a reliable test available to confirm someone has it. Blood tests are used to detect if antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi are present, which is the bacteria carried by the ticks that cause the disease. However, most tests only check for a small number of the possible strains that can cause an infection, and it can take a couple of weeks for the antibodies to show up on the test.
People also often get receive false negative or positive results, so a negative test result does not necessarily mean you havent been infected. Many people get a bulls-eye rash when bitten by a tick, but not everyone gets this mark or notices it there. For this reason, its essential to see a doctor who has experience treating Lyme disease and understands what symptoms to look for.
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How To Remove A Tick
Removing a tick is the same for humans and animals. Its important you do not crush or damage the tick because it could cause Lyme bacteria to pass from the tick into your bloodstream.
How to remove a tick.
How To Avoid Getting A Tick Bite
You might be at risk if you live, work in, or visit a wooded area, or an area with tall grasses and bushes .
You may also be at risk if you are involved in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and gardening.
You may be bitten by a tick and not even know it.
Heres what you can do to avoid getting a tick bite.
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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 You Get Lyme Disease
If a tick bites an animal carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, the tick can become infected. The tick can then transfer the bacteria to a human by biting them.
Ticks can be found in any areas with deep or overgrown plants where they have access to animals to feed on.
Theyre common in woodland and moorland areas, but can also be found in gardens or parks.
Ticks dont jump or fly. They climb on to your clothes or skin if you brush against something theyre on. They then bite into the skin and start to feed on your blood.
Generally, youre more likely to become infected if the tick is attached to your skin for more than 24 hours. Ticks are very small and their bites are not painful, so you may not realise you have one attached to your skin.
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With Lyme Disease On The Rise Why Do So Many Chronic Sufferers Struggle To Convince Doctors Theyre Sick
New York-based writer Porochista Khakpour has spent 12 years seeking answers to a variety of strange physical symptoms that have baffled doctors, from convulsions and tremors that feel like a panic attack, to debilitating fatigue. Shes sought midnight answers for strange fevers and painful gastritis, spent hundreds of sleepless nights fighting with drug-resistant insomnia, experienced rapid weight loss or gains of up to 40 pounds without any changes in diet, and most frightening to her, difficulty swallowing.
The author of two novels and the new memoir, Sick, Khakpour has visited dozens of doctors in some of the most respected medical institutions around the country. For years, these often-debilitating symptoms were written off as psychological or psychosomatic. It wasnt until 2012 that multiple, expensive blood tests from a company called IGeneX confirmed the presence of Lyme disease in her blood, caused by the bite of an infected tick. Im one of the rare cases where you have an unequivocal diagnosis. People have put that at less than 10 percent, Khakpour tells me.
Numerous patients say they live with chronic, persistent symptoms, like Khakpour, who experiences what she calls Lyme relapses.
Iits not uncommon for people with suspected or persistent Lyme disease to meet with doubt from the medical establishment.
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What Are The First Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
In the first early localized stage of Lyme disease the skin at the site of the tick bite becomes infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria which can cause an expanding round or oval red skin lesion called erythema migrans. This may or may not be associated with flu-like symptoms within days to a month after the tick bite such as achiness, chills, fever, sweats, fatigue, malaise, headache, stiff neck, muscle soreness, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat. The combination of the skin lesion and flu-like symptoms are the primary manifestations of acute stage Lyme disease. Acute Lyme disease is not associated with typical cold-like symptoms of runny nose, prominent cough, or prominent diarrhea.
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Can We Test Fluids Other Than Serum
Yes, CSF samples can be submitted from horses with neurological signs. The CSF sample needs to be submitted together with a serum sample from the same animal and taken at the same time. The relative increase of antibodies in CSF can indicate local production of antibodies in the CNS. Typically, one or two antibody values are increased more than 2-fold if B. burgdorferi contributes to the neurologic condition.
For other samples, contact the lab first .
Chronic Lyme Disease Symptom Severity
In LDos chronic Lyme disease survey, over 75% of patients reported at least one symptom as severe or very severe and 63% reported two or more such symptoms. Find out more about LDo peer-reviewed published surveys. The chart below shows the severity of ten common chronic Lyme symptoms.
The survey also found that patients with chronic Lyme disease have high disability and unemployment rates. Over 40% of patients with chronic Lyme disease reported that they currently are unable to work because of Lyme disease and 24% report that they have received disability at some point in their illness.
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Taking Care Of Yourself
You can still do a lot of things, but you may need to make some changes to your lifestyle to prevent getting hurt or cut. For instance, avoid sports such as football and downhill skiing.
Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, to give your body the nutrients it needs. Ask your doctor if you should avoid food with quinine and aspartame, like tonic water, bitter lemon, bitter melon, some diet sodas, and sugar-free foods.
You probably shouldnt take medicines that make bleeding easier, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Check with your doctor to see if its OK for you to drink alcohol, and if it is, how much.
Digestive Symptoms Related To Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, in conjunction with the inflammation caused by leaky gut, primes the immune system that surrounds the digestive tract. Mast cells are part of the immune system and tend to be located where the outside world interfaces with the inside of the body. The skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract are examples of these locations.
When mast cells are triggered by a variety of stimuli, they release histamine and other chemical mediators. In MCAS, mast cells are more prone to releasing their contents leading to a myriad of symptoms. The most common digestive symptoms experienced in MCAS are nausea and heartburn, but abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation also be present. MCAS also contributes to systemic symptoms and digestive dysfunction needs to be addressed if it is contributing to MCAS.
So My Dog Is Positive Now What
The big question to ask yourself is whether or not your dog is showing symptoms for Lyme. Do they have a fever? Are they eating? Are they limping? Hows their energy level? If the answers to all of these are good and normal then your dog is what we call an asymptomatic positive. And now the can of worms opens. Im going to lay out what Ive found in my research for this article. BUT this is where that disclaimer at the top bears repeating. This is my opinion and, as with any disease, you need to consult with your veterinarian before deciding on any treatment course.
Onward. Lets hit the easy one first, your animal is positive for Lyme and has symptoms. They should, and will, be treated by your veterinarian. First choice antibiotics are doxycycline or amoxicillin. Typically dogs are treated for a month, though no one knows how long it takes to truly clear a dog of the carrier state . There is a second C6 test that tests for the same antibodies as the SNAP test but it quantifies the level of antibody present. There is some use in using this test in dogs receiving treatment as you can test before and after to see if antibody levels falling which may give you an idea of if the treatment is working .
Stage : Quickly Expanding Rash
After being bitten by a black-legged tick, a quickly growing rash can appear. This is the earliest stage of Lyme disease, known as stage 1.
Most people who develop a rash, get it within days or weeks of being bitten by a tick.
Where you see the rash: If you develop a rash, it appears near the tick bit you. For most people, that means the back, groin, armpit, or a lower leg. However, a tick can bite you anywhere.
What the rash can look like: You may see a spot or bump on the skin, which is the bite mark. Around or near the bite mark, a rash develops. Some people see the bulls-eye rash . You can also have one of the other rashes shown here.
Early rash caused by Lyme disease
Notice the bite mark in the center of this early rash, which will expand quickly.
Bull’s-eye rash on woman’s upper arm
This is another early sign of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease rash with lighter color on the outside
This rash has expanded, but you can still see the bite mark in the center.
Rash from Lyme disease has begun to clear
As the rash begins to clear, the redness fades.
If you develop a rash during this stage, you may notice that it:
Feels smooth and warm to the touch
Causes a burning sensation
Itches or feels painful
Has an outer edge that feels scaly or crusty
When the rash and symptoms begin: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the rash begins 3 to 30 days after the tick bites you.
About 50% of people who have Lyme disease develop flu-like symptoms , which include:
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