How Can I Avoid Getting Bitten By A Tick Or Contracting Lyme
Ticks can thrive in a variety of environments. Ticks are found in thickets and coastal areas, or in low grasses and herbaceous vegetation, Ostfeld says. But theyre predominantly forest creatures. Grassy, bushy, and especially heavily wooded areas are all prime real estate for ticks. Staying away from those environments is your best defense, he says.
But if you do venture into such areas, wear long pants and boots, and take them off as soon as you get home. Ostfeld recommends throwing any clothing you were wearing into the dryer turned to high heat as soon as possible. Ticks love humidity, and theyve been shown to survive washing and drying. But toss your clothes in the dryer without wetting them, and the dry, hot conditions should kill them off, he says.
You can also use DEET and other bug repellents to effectively keep ticks away, he says. A chemical called permethrin is available as a spray, and when applied to your boots or hiking pants, it can kill ticks on contact.
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed
It can be difficult to diagnose Lyme disease. The ticks that carry it are very small and the bites dont hurt. Many patients dont remember being bitten. In addition, most of the symptoms are common with other illnesses.
If you find a tick in your skin, use tweezers to remove it immediately. Then wait a few days to see if you develop any symptoms. If you do, call your family doctor. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They will look at the bite and check for a rash. They may order a blood test. But those arent always necessary to make the diagnosis. They can often give false results, especially in early-stage Lyme disease.
People who have joint swelling or nervous system problems may need to have special tests. Your doctor may need to take some fluid from the swollen joint or the spine to check for clues to your condition.
If you have been sick for 4 weeks or more, call your doctor. They can give you a blood test at this stage. It will tell you if you have Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease Brain Scan
SPECT is a nuclear medicine study that evaluates activity in the brain. Basically, it shows three things: healthy activity, too little activity, or too much activity. The healthy surface brain SPECT scan on the left, looking down from the top, shows full, even symmetrical activity. The scan on the right, which is of a patient with Lyme disease, shows overall decreased blood flow denoted by the bumpy appearance on the surface of the brain. The pattern on this scan shows low activity due to the infection.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can affect different body systems, such as the nervous system, joints, skin, and heart. The symptoms of Lyme disease are often described as happening in three stages. Not everyone with Lyme has all of these, though:
The rash sometimes has a bulls-eye appearance, with a central red spot surrounded by clear skin that is ringed by an expanding red rash. It also can appear as an growing ring of solid redness. Its usually flat and painless, but sometimes can be warm to the touch, itchy, scaly, burning, or prickling. The rash may look and feel very different from one person to the next. It can be harder to see on people with darker skin tones, where it can look like a bruise. It gets bigger for a few days to weeks, then goes away on its own. A person also may have flu-like symptoms such as fever, tiredness, headache, and muscle aches.
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.
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Symptoms: As The Infection Spreads
If the disease goes untreated in its early stages, over several weeks or months it can spread to other areas of the body like your:
You could also have more rashes and periods of pain and weakness in your arms or legs. Other symptoms include:
- Facial muscle paralysis
- Inflamed brain and spinal cord
Stage : Small Oval Rashes Or A Reddish Lump
When a tick that causes Lyme disease bites you, it infects you with bacteria. Without treatment, the bacteria can spread to other areas of your body. Stage 2 begins when the bacteria spread to other parts of your body.
During this stage, you may see small, oval rashes on your skin. Some people develop a bluish-red lump.
Where you see these signs: Because the infection has spread, small rashes can appear anywhere on your skin, except for your palms and soles. Most rashes appear on the arms, legs, and face.
Some people develop a lump, which your doctor may refer to as borrelial lymphocytoma. In children, this lump tends to appear on an earlobe. Adults often see a raised growth form around a nipple.
Borrelial lymphocytoma on a childs ear
This can appear in stage 2 of Lyme disease.
What you may see on your skin: The rashes that appear during stage 2 differ from the rash that can appear in stage 1. In stage 2, the rashes stay the same size rather than grow larger.
When the rashes, lump, and symptoms begin: About 30 to 45 days after the tick bites you, you may notice rashes or a lump. These can also take longer to appear, sometimes six months or more.
Some people develop symptoms, which make them feel ill, including:
Shortness of breath and dizzy spells
Bells palsy, which causes one half of the face to droop
Heart problems, such as chest pains or an irregular heartbeat
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Seek Medical Care Early To Prevent Lyme Disease From Progressing
Its easy to get bit by a tick and not know it. Most people dont feel a tick on their skin or the bite. Checking your skin for ticks after spending time outdoors can help you find a tick and remove it.
Removing a tick can prevent Lyme disease. A tick must be attached to your skin for at least 36 hours to infect you with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
Its not always possible to find a tick, so its important to pay close attention to your skin. If you notice any signs of Lyme disease or develop a rash, get medical care right away. Ticks can cause other serious diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Related AAD resources
ImagesImage 1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Image Library, Last accessed May 11, 2017.
Images 2, 3, and 7: Used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 64:619-36.
Images 4 and 5: Getty Images
Image 6: Used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
ReferencesBhate C and Schwartz RA.
Lyme disease: Part I. Advances and perspectives. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 64:619-36.
Lyme disease: Part II. Management and prevention. J Am Acad Dermatol 2011 64:639-53.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Signs and symptoms of untreated Lyme disease. Page last updated October 26, 2016. Last accessed May 2, 2018.
Lyme disease: transmission. Page lasted updated March 4, 2015. Last accessed May 2, 2018.
How To Remove A Tick
Don’t use a lit cigarette end, a match head or substances like alcohol or petroleum jelly to force the tick out.
Some vets and pet shops sell cheap tick removal devices. These may be useful if you often spend time in areas where there are ticks.
If the ticks mouthparts break off in the skin and cannot be removed, these may cause local irritation but should fall out naturally in time.
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Where Do Ticks Live
Ticks live outdoors. They hide in grass, trees, shrubs, and underbrush.
If youre outside hiking or playing, a tick might attach itself to you or your pet. Ticks may stay attached to your pet, or they can migrate to you while youre touching or holding your pet. They can also leave you and attach themselves to your pets.
Various kinds of ticks live in large populations throughout the country. Most states have at least one type of tick that lives there. Ticks are at their peak population in the spring and summer months, typically April through September.
How Can You Tell A Tick Bite From A Mosquito Bite
Obviously, ticks arent the only bugs that can bite you and leave a mark. Tick bites are difficult to detect compared to mosquito bites since the reaction from a bite can vary from person to person, says board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, M.D.1, founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics.
Tick bites may have a tiny, deep red circle with a lighter red patch around the edges, Dr. Rodney says. And, she points out, ticks can remain on the skin and site, making it easy to tell if you have a tick bite.
But, if the bug has left the premises, Dr. Rodney says that these are signs youre dealing with a mosquito bite:
- It looks red or white
- It has a raised bump or a dark spot that looks like a bruise
Another thing to keep in mind, per Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital: Mosquitoes tend to bite more than once or bite in groups. Mosquito bites often are multiple, while a tick bite usually is a single lesion, he says.
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Stage : Changing Skin
In stage 3, few signs of Lyme disease appear on the skin. Most problems occur in the heart and nervous system, and these can be serious.
Where you see signs on your skin: If you were in Europe when bit by a tick, you may see changes to your skin in this late stage. These changes usually appear on a hand or foot. Some people develop this change on both of their hands or feet. It can also occur on a knee, elbow, or elsewhere.
What the skin looks like: The skin begins to swell, and you may notice some redness. These signs are caused by having a bacterial infection for a long time. The affected skin may also feel sore.
In time, the skin starts to harden and shrink, causing deep lines to form. If you have hair in the area, it tends to fall out. The sweat glands can die, and the skin often becomes so thin that it tears easily. The medical name for this condition is acrodermatitischronical atrophicans.
In stage 3, you may also see tumors on your skin. It is believed that the long-term infection and swelling in the lymph nodes can lead to a cancer known as cutaneous B-cell lymphoma.
Skin starts to harden and shrink, causing deep lines to form
The medical name for this condition is acrodermatitis chronical atrophicans. Swelling, hardened skin, and deep lines on the foot of someone who has had Lyme disease for years.
When you see signs of changing skin and symptoms: These tend to occur months or years after you are bitten by a tick.
Lyme Disease & Other Infectious Agents
Lyme disease isnt the only infection that can interfere with brain function. Other infectious agents can also cause inflammation and lead to brain disorders, which can mimic or cause a multitude of symptoms associated with mental health conditions. Because of this, people with these infections are often misdiagnosed with psychiatric disorders.
Traditionally, the medical community has dismissed the fact that infections can be associated with these types of symptoms, but that is changing. An editorial in theJournal of Alzheimers Diseasewritten by a worldwide group of 33 scientists suggested the medical community has been neglecting to look at infectious diseases as a root cause of many memory problems, including Alzheimers disease and other dementias.
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The Consequences Of Improper Diagnosis And Treatment
When people with undetected Lyme disease or other infections are misdiagnosed with psychiatric illnesses or cognitive dysfunction, treatments often dont work. And in some cases, they can make symptoms worse. Without a correct diagnosis and the appropriate treatment, the infection persists, causing further injury to the brain.
This can eventually lead to trouble in all areas of your life, including decreased productivity at work, poor school performance, and problems with personal and interpersonal functioning. Without getting the right treatment, Lyme disease and other infections can steal your mind and steal your life.
For people who are not responding to treatment for their symptoms, it is very important to investigate whether an underlying infection may be contributing to the issue.
With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life
Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
What If The Tick That Bit Me Didnt Transmit An Infection
If you know for sure a tick bit you because you found it attached to your skin, its still totally possible you wont contract an illness. Why? Well, not all ticks carry diseases, for starters. As mentioned, theres also a correlation between the length of time the tick was attached to you and how likely you are to get sick.
Removing the tick as soon as possible reduces risk of infection if its carrying a disease, says Dr. Schrading. The less time its attached to you, the less likely it is to infect you, especially if its been less than 12 hours.
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What Are Potential Symptoms Of Untreated Lyme Disease And Other Infections
It is well known that Lyme disease and other infections can cause physiological symptoms, including fever, swollen glands, sore throat, breathing problems, headache, and joint pain or swelling. But many people are unaware that they can also lead to cognitive and neuropsychiatric issues, including:
Lyme disease can be misdiagnosed or lead to the following if it goes untreated:
- Eating disorders
A Tick Bite Is Never Something To Brush Off Forget About And Deal With Later Many Ticks Carry Microbes That Can Cause A Variety Of Diseases
If diseases caused by tick bites are left untreated, they can lead to serious health problems that could potentially affect your muscles, joints, brain, heart, vision, and nervous system. Many tick-borne illnesses can have serious consequences that alter your lifestyle and activities by limiting your mobility, cognition, and overall quality of life. Knowing how to identify a tick bite and recognizing the general symptoms of tick-borne diseases can alert you to possible health risks sooner, so you can consult with your healthcare provider about appropriate next steps as soon as possible.
What a tick looks like
The first step in identifying tick bites is to know what ticks look like. Ticks will look different at each stage of their life cycle. Belonging to the arachnid class , ticks begin their life as an egg then hatch as a larva, which grows into a nymph and finally an adult tick. Dozens of tick species exist, but all are similar in appearance.
Photo taken by Christopher Paddock. Image Source:
Ticks generally have four stages of life: egg, larvae, nymph and adult. Ticks advance through each of these stages by molting, a process during which they shed their outer skin.
What does a tick bite look like?
If youre worried you may have been exposed to a tick-borne illness, its obvious to wonder what a tick bite looks like. Unless a rash appears, a tick bite is likely to look much like any other bug bite.
Can you feel a tick bite?
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Lyme Disease Rashes And Look
Circular, expanding rash with target-like appearance.
Expanding rash with central crust
Expanding lesion with central crust on chest.
Expanding erythema migrans
Photo Credit: Reprinted from Bhate C, Schwartz RA. Lyme disease: Part I. Advances and perspectivesexternal icon. J Am Acad Dermatol 2011 64:619-36, with permission from Elsevier.
Description:Early, expanding erythema migrans with nodule.
Multiple rashes, disseminated infection
Early disseminated Lyme disease multiple lesions with dusky centers.
Red, oval plaque
Red, expanding oval-shaped plaque on trunk.
Expanding rash with central clearing
Circular, expanding rash with central clearing.
Bluish hued rash, no central clearing
Bluish hued without central clearing.
Expanding lesion, no central clearing
Expanding lesion without central clearing on back of knee.
Red-blue lesion with central clearing
Red-blue lesion with some central clearing on back of knee.
Insect bite hyper-sensitivity
Large itchy rash caused by an allergic reaction to an insect bite.
Fixed drug reaction
Description:A skin condition that occurs up to two weeks after a person takes a medication. The skin condition reappears at the same location every time a person takes that particular medication.
Description:Ringworm is a common skin infection that is caused by a fungus. Its called ringworm because it can cause a ring-shaped rash that is usually red and itchy with raised edges.
Pityriasis rosea rash
Granuloma annulare rash