What Causes Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. In the United States, this is usually a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It spreads to humans through the bite of an infected tick. The ticks that spread it are blacklegged ticks . They are usually found in the:
- Pacific coast, especially northern California
These ticks can attach to any part your body. But they are often found in hard-to-see areas such as your groin, armpits, and scalp. Usually the tick must be attached to you for 36 to 48 hours or more to spread the bacterium to you.
Can Lyme Disease Be Treated
In most cases, yes. Antibiotics can effectively treat Lyme disease, especially when treatment begins early. Cases that reach the later stages of the disease, however, can be difficult to treat and some symptoms can persist.
PHAC reports that removing the tick within 24-36 hours usually prevents infection.
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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Cdc Supports The Development Of New Tests
New tests may be developed as alternatives to one or both steps of the two-step process. Before CDC will recommend new tests, they must be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration . For more details, see: Recommendations for Test Performance and Interpretation from the Second National Conference on Serologic Diagnosis of Lyme Disease.
Can Lyme Disease Be Detected By A Blood Test
In a word: yes!
A blood test does not only detect Lyme disease it is the most accurate and preferred test for diagnosing the disease. If a patient with Lyme disease shows signs that the central nervous system has been affected by the disease, western blot testing on the cerebrospinal fluid can be performed. If ordering from Walk-In Lab, a doctors note is not needed. Just pick your Lyme disease test and place your order online.
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How To Tell If You Have Lyme Disease
In the mid 1970s, doctors in and around Lyme, Connecticut, noticed an oddity: An outbreak of swollen knees and other joint problems, especially among young people.
Eventually, they identified a peculiar culprit a bacteria carried by a tick. The disease, which took its name from that Connecticut city, was soon being effectively treated by antibiotics.
But effective treatment means little if the disease isnt identified in the first place. The joint problems experienced by those children in Lyme are just some of the long-term problems caused by untreated Lyme disease. It can also cause serious problems with the heart, joints, nervous system and memory. So before you enjoy the outdoors, take a moment to review the symptoms of Lyme disease.
Ensuring Best Practice Using Published Evidence
Guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme disease, which rigorously reviewed all of the available evidence and have been externally peer-reviewed, were produced by the IDSA and are endorsed by AMMI Canada . Although published in 2006, the recommendations are similar to those in recently published evidence-based guidelines and position papers produced in Europe in 2018, including:
- UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Last updated October 18, 2018
- The European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases study group for Lyme borreliosis
In 2006, the Attorney General for the State of Connecticut in the United States launched an investigation into the development process of IDSAs Lyme disease guidelines. There was a concern that the guidelines process was tainted by commercial conflicts of interest and the suppression of scientific evidence. The IDSA and the Connecticut Attorney Generals office agreed to retain an independent panel to review all of the IDSA guidelines. This special independent panel reported in 2010 that all of the IDSA recommendations were sound and that there were no conflicts of interest from their contributors . As part of their routine practice, IDSA is in the process of updating these guidelines using GRADE guideline criteria for quality of evidence.
In the opinion of AMMI Canada, the best approach to health guidelines is always a rigorous scientific review of evidence.
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What Abnormal Results Mean
A positive ELISA result is abnormal. This means antibodies were seen in your blood sample. But, this does not confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease. A positive ELISA result must be followed up with a Western blot test. Only a positive Western blot test can confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease.
For many people, the ELISA test remains positive, even after they have been treated for Lyme disease and no longer have symptoms.
A positive ELISA test may also occur with certain diseases not related to Lyme disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Diagnosis Testing And Treatment
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:
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.
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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.
What Happens During Lyme Disease Testing
Lyme disease testing is usually done on a sample of blood. In certain cases, a cerebrospinal fluid test may be done.
For a Lyme disease blood test:A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
For a CSF test:You may need a cerebrospinal fluid test if your symptoms could mean that Lyme disease is affecting your nervous system, such as a stiff neck or numb hands or feet. Providers may order a CSF test if the results of your blood test show you likely have Lyme disease or if the results are uncertain.
To get a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid, a provider will do a procedure called a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap. During the procedure:
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Does The Time Of Year Matter In The Diagnosis Of Lyme Disease
Since Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection, the seasonality of the disease is linked tightly to the life cycle and behavior of ticks. May, June, July, and early August are the biggest risk months for acquiring first stage Lyme disease in the US. This is the feeding time for nymph and adolescent ticks which are difficult to see. A viral-like illness in those early summer months might be Lyme disease. There is also some transmission of Lyme disease via adult ticks in the fall and winter and throughout the year anytime the temperature is above 40 degrees, but to a lesser degree.
The risk of acute Lyme disease is more of a year-round risk in more temperate regions such as northern California and the pacific northwest. Later stage Lyme disease, however, can manifest at any time.
How Is Lyme Disease Transmitted
Ticks usually live in woods or tall grasslands in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. Ticks can become infected with Borrelia burgdorferi by feeding on infected wild animals, and then can spread the bacteria when they feed on blood from the host. Ticks cannot fly – they hang onto small bushes or tall grasses and are usually found close to the ground. They wait for an animal or person to pass near them and when the animal or person makes contact, the ticks attach themselves to the skin to feed.
In North America, Lyme disease is transmitted mainly by two species of ticks:
- Blacklegged tick , Ixodes scapularis.
- Western blacklegged tick, Ixodes pacificus.
The Public Health Agency of Canada states that there no evidence that Lyme disease can spread from person-to-person. Pets, especially dogs, can get Lyme disease, but there is no evidence that pets can spread the infection directly to humans. They may, however, carry infected ticks into the home or yard which may increase the chance of transmission.
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What Are Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease symptoms can often be mistaken for the flu. Within the first three to 30 days after a tick bite, a person can experience fever, chills, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches and fatigue.
A rash at the site of the tick bite can occur in about 70 to 80 per cent of infections, on average a week after infection. The rash can grow up to 12 inches in size and may feel warm or hot to the touch.
Days to months after infection, symptoms can progress to include a severe headache, neck stiffness, additional rashes may develop on other areas of the body.
Facial palsy, arthritis, nerve pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, shooting pains or tingling in the hands or feet as well as problem with short-term memory.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Signs and symptoms of early Lyme disease typically include:
- A reddish rash or skin lesion known as erythema migraines . The rash starts as a small red spot at the site of the tick bite anywhere from one week after to four weeks after the bite. The spot expands over a period of days or weeks, forming a circular, triangular or oval-shaped rash. The rash may look like a bulls eye because it appears as a red ring that surrounds a clear center area. The rash can range in size from that of a dime to the entire width of a person’s back. As infection spreads, several EM rashes can appear at different sites on your body.
Signs and symptoms of the second stage of Lyme disease may include:
- Multiple areas of rash.
- Paralysis of facial muscles .
- Heart block or an interruption of the electrical system of the heart.
- Areas of numbness or abnormal feelings .
Signs and symptoms of untreated late Lyme disease, which may happen from months to a year after infection, may include:
- Recurring episodes of swollen joints . This typically affects large joints like the knee.
- Difficulty concentrating, known as brain fog. This is a form of encephalopathy or damage to the brain.
- Damage to nerves all over your body, including your skin, muscles and organs .
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Reduce Ticks In Your Backyard
While many people used to believe you had to travel into a wooded area to come across ticks, many ticks are living right in their own backyard.
You can help reduce the possibility of ticks by ensuring that your lawn and property is not a suitable environment for ticks. Make sure your lawn is frequently mowed, trees and bushes trimmed to allow for sunlight and remove any weeds or brush from your yard. Remove any excess furniture and keep swing-sets and garbage away from wooded areas.
Additionally, you can create a barrier around your property of wooden chips or gravel to restrict tick movement and migration into the rest of your lawn.
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Can Lyme Disease Completely Be Cured
Taking oral antibiotics typically cures Lyme disease after two to four weeks. You may need to get antibiotics through the vein for four more weeks. However, theres no reason to think that Lyme disease stays in you forever after treatment.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If youre going to spend time in an area that might have ticks, take measures to avoid being bitten. This includes wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants to make it harder for ticks to bite. If you feel sick after being in an area that probably has ticks, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. If your provider prescribes antibiotics, make sure you take all of them as instructed.
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Who Gets Lyme Disease And At What Time Of Year
Lyme disease is transmitted via the bite of infected ticks, which attach to any part of the body, but often to moist or hairy areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.
While everyone is susceptible to tick bites, campers, hikers, and people who work in gardens and other leafy outdoor venues are at the greatest risk of tick bites. As many a suburban gardener can attest, with the expansion of the suburbs and a push to conserve wooded areas, deer and mice populations are thriving, too, providing ample blood meals for ticks. For lyme disease to be transmitted, a tick needs to feed on the host for 24-48 hours.
In the majority of cases, tick bites are reported in the summer months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors. But this can extend into the warmer months of early autumn, too, or even late winter if temperatures are unusually high. Similarly, a mild winter can allow ticks, much like other insects, to thrive and emerge earlier than usual.
How Do You Prevent Tick Bites
While there is no human vaccine against Lyme disease, the best form of protection from Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites.
Before going outdoors, be sure to spray yourself and clothing with a bug repellent that contains DEET. You can also find U.S Environmental Protection Agency approved insect repellent to suit your needs. If youre an avid camper or hiker, you can treat your clothing and gear with products that contain 0.5% permethrin that will last for several washings to ensure your protection.
Be sure to examine yourself thoroughly for ticks around your hairline, ears, armpits, groin, belly button and the back of your legs for ticks once you return indoors. The CDC suggests showering to help wash off potentially unattached ticks that you may not have seen. Examine your clothes and if possible, put them in the dryer for at least ten minutes to kill any ticks that may have made their way indoors.
Ticks often migrate through animals, meaning your pet could be a carrier or ticks into your home. Aside from asking your vet about a suitable tick prevention product, be sure to check your pet around the ears, eyelids, tail, collar and under their legs for ticks.
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How Is Lyme Disease Treated
Antibiotics, usually doxycycline or amoxicillin, are effective treatments for Lyme disease. How long your treatment lasts depends on the stage of infection. In general, its true that the sooner youre treated, the quicker and more complete the recovery.
Pregnant people should receive treatment for Lyme disease as well. There is, however, no evidence that a fetus can get the infection from its parent. Theres also no strong evidence that miscarriages are more likely after Lyme disease.
What should I do if a tick bites me?
If a tick bites you, 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 your skin.
- Avoid crushing the tick’s body or handling the tick with bare fingers because you could expose yourself to the bacteria in the tick.
- Wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water.
- Don’t use kerosene, petroleum jelly or hot cigarette butts to remove the tick.
- Don’t squeeze the tick’s body with your fingers or tweezers.