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.
Chronic Lyme Dos And Don’ts
Chronic Lyme disease is an ongoing Borrelia burgdorferi infection that can involve any body system or tissue. The infection produces a wide range of symptoms and signs, which can be debilitating for some patients. Common symptoms include severe fatigue, migratory musculoskeletal pain, headaches, and impaired memory. Unfortunately, chronic Lyme disease is complex and often misunderstood, which means that many patients will struggle to obtain the care they need to regain their health. Every patient concerned about Lyme disease and tick-borne illness should know the following.
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
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Learn More About Lyme Disease Treatment
When youre experiencing Lyme disease symptoms, schedule an appointment with Dr. Constantine Kotsanis at the Kotsanis Institute of Functional Medicine. He has years of experience treating Lyme disease, and he understands the seriousness of Lyme disease treatment. Best of all, he is committed to ensuring his patients stay as healthy as possible. Lyme disease is curable, so getting effective Lyme disease treatment will help resolve your symptoms and ensure your health remains intact.
What Happens If You Go Untreated For Lyme Disease
If untreated, Lyme disease can progress to chronic Lyme disease or stage 3 of Lyme disease. Stage 3 Lyme disease occurs months to years after the initial infection or a period of latency. Most patients presenting with the late disease do not have erythema migrans because the rash urges the patient to seek treatment earlier.
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Untreated Lyme Disease Can Cause Big Problems
A lack of awareness of the important signs and symptoms associated with Lyme disease can delay the treatment process, which in turn can result in the development of chronic manifestations of untreated Lyme disease. As the CDC has reported, the complications associated with untreated Lyme disease can be fairly serious.
Chronic Lyme disease is a multi-system disorder that is responsible for the development of a wide range of symptoms that are intermittently or continuously present for an extended period of time. Further, chronic Lyme disease is often divided into two categories: chronic Lyme disease that has been treated and chronic Lyme disease that hasnt been previously treated.
When the disease is left untreated, it could have a significant impact on essential body organs or systems that include the heart, joints and nervous system. The neurological symptoms associated with Lyme disease can include facial palsy and neuropathy, whereas the associated cognitive defects such as impaired memory are sometimes also observed in those suffering from chronic Lyme disease. Some people suffering from chronic Lyme disease also experience heart rhythm irregularities.
Ongoing Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
A few people who are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease continue to have symptoms, like tiredness, aches and loss of energy, that can last for years.
It’s not clear why this happens to some people and not others. This means there’s also no agreed treatment.
Speak to a doctor if your symptoms come back, or do not improve, after treatment with antibiotics.
The doctor may be able to offer you further support if needed, such as:
- referral for a care needs assessment
- telling your employer, school or higher education institution that you require a gradual return to activities
- communicating with children and families’ social care
Page last reviewed: 05 July 2021 Next review due: 05 July 2024
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Symptoms Of Early Stage Lyme Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , early-stage Lyme disease symptoms crop up within 3 to 30 days after exposure and can include but are not limited to:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Erythema migrans , a bulls-eye-shaped rash that appears at the site of the tick bite
Early Lyme disease does not always appear the same in all patients. For example, up to 30% of patients dont remember experiencing a bulls eye rash.
Signs And Symptoms Of Untreated Chronic Lyme Disease
Acute symptoms can turn chronic after several months of going untreated. Chronic Lyme disease can be debilitating, preventing you from functioning in activities you once enjoyed. As the bacteria spread throughout your body, so does inflammation.
You may begin to feel numbness and tingling in your limbs, dizziness, shortness of breath, tremors, respiratory infections, frequent sore throats, and severe stiffness in your neck. Headaches can become migraines the brain or spinal cord can become inflamed, facial paralysis and heart palpitations also appear.
Mentally, you can experience severe depression, anxiety, paranoia, rage, and even hallucinations.
The longer you go with an incorrect diagnosis and without proper treatment, the harder it can be to eliminate your symptoms.
However, just because they may be hard to eliminate, it does not mean impossible.
The first line of treatment for anyone with Lyme disease includes the use of antibiotics. Unfortunately, depending on how long your Lyme disease went untreated, antibiotics may not be enough.
The good news is that there are many new alternative treatments and therapies for Lyme disease sufferers showing great success. Alternative medicine in the fight against Lyme disease should only be administered by a Lyme literate physician.
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What Are The Long Term Effects Of Lyme Disease
The long-term effects of Lyme disease, if untreated or inadequately treated, can vary from arthritis to severe neuropathy. Impaired memory can be seen in some cases and even heart is affected in some others. It is a disease which can cause serious long term effects if untreated or improperly treated.
There are some factors which can increase the risk of getting the Lyme disease. If one spends a lot of time in woods or grasslands, it creates a risk factor for Lyme disease, as ticks dwell more in this type of areas. Also, ticks get attached easily to the bare flesh. Hence, it is advisable to wear full clothing while going to a ticks-infested place. Also, protect your pets from ticks by keeping them away from grass and tall plants. If at all you see a tick on the body, it should be removed promptly and properly. If the tick stays on the body attached for more than 36 hours, it is likely to cause infection. Ticks being attached for less than that period usually do not cause infection.
Lyme disease may affect multiple organs and systems in our body. And hence, it is responsible for producing a wide range of symptoms, which are related to the affected organs. The incubation period for the bacteria may range from one to two weeks, from infection to symptom onset.
Treatment For Erythema Migrans
People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely. Early diagnosis and proper antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease can help prevent late Lyme disease.
Treatment regimens listed in the following table are for the erythema migrans rash, the most common manifestation of early Lyme disease. These regimens may need to be adjusted depending on a persons age, medical history, underlying health conditions, pregnancy status, or allergies. Consult an infectious disease specialist regarding individual patient treatment decisions.
|100 mg, twice per day orally||N/A|
|500 mg, three times per day orally||N/A|
|500 mg, twice per day orally||N/A|
|4.4 mg/kg per day orally, divided into 2 doses||100 mg per dose|
|50 mg/kg per day orally, divided into 3 doses||500 mg per dose|
|30 mg/kg per day orally, divided into 2 doses||500 mg per dose|
*When different durations of antibiotics are shown to be effective for the treatment of Lyme disease, the shorter duration is preferred to minimize unnecessary antibiotics that might result in adverse effects, including infectious diarrhea and antimicrobial resistance.
NOTE: For people intolerant of amoxicillin, doxycycline, and cefuroxime, the macrolide azithromycin may be used, although it is less effective. People treated with azithromycin should be closely monitored to ensure that symptoms resolve.
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What Happens If Lyme Disease Goes Untreated For Years
If Lyme disease goes untreated for years, youll suffer the long-term effects of the infection, which include chronic joint inflammation, heart problems , psychological disorders, sleep problems, memory loss, and nerve damage.
Moreover, since Lyme disease has a multisystemic impact, there is a high chance that it infects several organs altogether. The early stage of Lyme disease also has different sets of symptoms of varying degrees than the later stage of the infection.
So, its not uncommon for patients with undiagnosed Lyme disease to experience problems with their digestion, reproduction, cognition, circulation, and skin health.
There is also the likelihood that symptoms dont manifest quickly after infection. While some individuals show symptoms as early as days or weeks after the tick bite, others observe these symptoms as far as 6 to 36 months.
Can Lyme Disease Change Your Personality
To some degree, Lyme disease can change your personality, specifically your mood, energy level, and cognition.
Lyme disease is known to affect the psychological state of a person due to the inflammation it causes to certain parts of the brain. As a result, the cognitive function becomes disrupted, which means that crucial neurotransmitters are not adequately produced.
Moreover, several behavioral changes manifest like paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and anorexia nervosa.
Since Lyme disease was first considered a physical illness, its psychological effects were taken for granted in the early years of its identification. However, as more research has been done, a lot more details were discovered about how it changes a persons mental state.
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Some Chronic Lyme Disease Symptoms
As mentioned, chronic Lyme disease consists of a broad cluster of physical, cognitive, and psychiatric symptoms. Some of these symptoms are much more common, while others almost never occur, but can be deadly. But even the less severe symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and pain, can lead to drastic changes in quality of life for chronic Lyme patients.
Chronic Lyme survivors have reported experiencing the following symptoms for months to years after infection:
- Intermittent fevers, chills, and sweats
- Chronic inflammation
- Numbness and tingling in the limbs
- Dizziness and shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Multiple-chemical sensitivities
Chronic Lyme disease can be linked to deadly symptoms, such as Lyme carditis .
According to Lymedisease.org, studies consistently show that chronic Lyme disease patients have poorer quality of life than those with other chronic diseases. One of their own studies showed that 75% of surveyed patients reported at least one symptom as severe or very severe.
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.
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Chronic Lyme Disease Vs Acute And Late Stage Lyme
One reason chronic Lyme disease is harder to detect and treat than Lyme at earlier stages is that chronic Lyme disease symptoms are more wide-ranging and varied. Chronic Lyme disease can cause symptoms of early Lyme disease such as fatigue and muscle aches to recur, but it can also cause new symptoms that affect different parts of the body.
Early Detection Is Key
Lyme disease is easiest to treat at the early or acute stage, within the first 30 days of exposure. This is why its so important to take precautions to prevent tick bites, both during and outside of tick season. Protect yourself when near potential tick habitats, always perform tick checks after outdoor activity , and dont delay seeking medical attention if you notice any symptoms that might be related to tick-borne illness. Its important to get tested as soon as possible for the best chances of recovery.
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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.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
How old you are
Lyme disease in the earliest stage is usually treated with antibiotics for 2 to 3 weeks.
Treatment will also be considered based on these and other factors:
If you are bitten by a tick that tests positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease
If you are bitten by a tick and have any of the symptoms
If you are bitten by a tick and are pregnant
If you are bitten by a tick and live in a high-risk area
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Signs And Symptoms Of Untreated Acute Lyme Disease
Soon after you are infected with Lyme disease, you may start to notice symptoms like fever, runny nose, sweats, and body aches. You can see how easy it is to confuse these symptoms with the flu. And because not everyone will find a tick on their body or see a rash, you may not connect it right away with Lyme disease.
But you should. It doesnt hurt to be tested for Lyme, and even if youre ninety percent sure you have the flu, push for a Lyme test. You could be experiencing recurring symptoms from a previous misdiagnosis.
The longer your Lyme disease is untreated, the greater your symptoms. The flu-like symptoms may strengthen, as well as an increase in joint pain. Any joint on the body can become inflamed by the bacterial infection associated with Lyme disease.
Early And Later Stages Of Lyme Disease
In the early stages of Lyme disease, when the infection has not yet spread to the body, but only the place of tick bite is affected, one can see a red spot, with a circular rash all around it which is outwardly expanding. This is known as erythema migrans , which looks like a bulls eye. The rash is generally not painful. This type of rash is also known as target lesion. In this early infection stage, there can be muscle pain or soreness, fever and fatigue, and headaches. Rash is present in most of the cases, however, even if the rash is not present, the disease can still spread to the next stage.
In the later stages of Lyme disease, when the infection has just started to spread in the blood, the EM can develop at other places on the body, which has no direct connection with the original insect bite. Severe joint pain may start and may occur in bouts. Sometimes, a long period after the infection, people can get affected by symptoms like neck stiffness, which could be indicative of meningitis, facial palsy-on one or both sides of the face, weakness in the limbs and soreness and impairment of muscular function.
There are a few other symptoms of Lyme disease which are not very common, but can be witnessed by some affected persons. These might include irregular heartbeats, arrhythmia, and liver inflammation. Severe tiredness is seen in many affected persons.
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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.
Key Points To Remember
- Most Lyme disease tests are designed to detect antibodies made by the body in response to infection.
- Antibodies can take several weeks to develop, so patients may test negative if infected only recently.
- Antibodies normally persist in the blood for months or even years after the infection is gone therefore, the test cannot be used to determine cure.
- Infection with other diseases, including some tickborne diseases, or some viral, bacterial, or autoimmune diseases, can result in false positive test results.
- Some tests give results for two types of antibody, IgM and IgG. Positive IgM results should be disregarded if the patient has been ill for more than 30 days.
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