What Are The Clinical Signs Of Lyme Disease
Some people with Lyme disease develop a characteristic bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite within three to thirty days. If this occurs, the disease can be easily diagnosed at an early stage.
However, signs of Lyme disease are more difficult to detect in animals than in people. The characteristic rash does not develop in dogs or cats. In fact, Lyme disease is practically unheard of in cats.
“Affected dogs have been described as if they were walking on eggshells.”
Many dogs affected with Lyme disease are taken to a veterinarian because they seem to be experiencing generalized pain and have stopped eating. Affected dogs have been described as if they were walking on eggshells. Often these pets have high fevers. Dogs may also begin limping. This painful lameness often appears suddenly and may shift from one leg to another. If untreated, it may eventually disappear, only to recur weeks or months later.
Some pets are infected with the Lyme disease organism for over a year before they finally show symptoms. By this time, the disease may be widespread throughout the body. Non-specific signs which may indicate that Lyme disease is affecting the kidneys include vomiting, lethargy, anorexia , and weight loss. The kidney form of the disease is less common, but often fatal.
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.
Lyme Disease Vaccine Provides Promising Protection Against Harmful Tick Bites
A tick of the kind that transports Lyme Disease from animals to humans.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. A vaccine for Lyme disease may soon provide groundbreaking protection against the tick-borne illness. Researchers from Yale University say the new formula is very similar to the vaccine for COVID-19 and successfully defended guinea pigs bitten by a Lyme-carrying tick.
Instead of causing the immune system to spring into action to fight Lyme disease, the vaccine actually attacks the root of the problem the ticks saliva. Study authors say the new vaccine immediately creates a response in the bite victims skin, limiting the amount of time a tick has to feed and infect the host. This vaccine also uses the same mRNA technology the COVID vaccines use to protect patients.
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What Does A Tick Bite Look Like Exactly
The signs of a tick bite actually vary from person to person, since everyones immune system reacts differently to them, explains Thomas Mather, Ph.D., director of the University of Rhode Islands Center for Vector-Borne Disease and Tick Encounter Resource Center. While someone may have a small, red bump after the tick detaches, others may develop an area of redness and itchiness.
Your best bet is to find the tick while its still on your skin. Ticks are designed to linger when they attach and bite, says Mather. The mouth of a tick contains a bunch of backward-pointing barbs that they use to stay put, meaning they are designed to lock and load, as Mather puts it. The biters also secrete a cement-like substance around their mouths to keep them stuck even if they were to be, say, absentmindedly scratched at.
Depending on where the tick is in its lifecyclelarva , nymph , or adult stage it can stick around anywhere from three to six days, Mather says. The longer theyre feeding, the bigger they getand the greater the risk of transmitting disease.
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Diagnosis Of Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
In order to diagnose Lyme disease, a doctor will order a blood test that checks for titers, which are the level of antibodies to the bacteria that cause the disease.
The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay is the most common test for Lyme disease. The Western blot test, another antibody test, was once used to confirm the ELISA results. Current recommendations from the and the Food and Drug Administration state that a second ELISA test may be used to confirm Lyme disease.
The antibodies to B. burgdorferi can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks after infection to show up in your blood. As a result, people tested within the first few weeks of infection may test negative for Lyme disease. In this case, your doctor may choose to monitor your symptoms and test again at a later date to confirm the diagnosis.
If youre in an area where Lyme disease is common, your doctor may be able to diagnose Lyme disease in stage 1 based on their clinical experience and your symptoms.
If your doctor suspects you have early disseminated Lyme disease and the infection has spread throughout your body, they may recommend testing potentially affected areas. These tests may include:
Other antibiotics or intravenous medication may be necessary depending on your condition and additional symptoms.
You will likely have a rapid and complete recovery if you receive antibiotics in one of the early stages of Lyme disease.
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Stage : Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
Late disseminated Lyme disease occurs when the infection hasnt been treated in stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 can occur months or years after the tick bite.
This stage is characterized by:
- arthritis of one or more large joints
- brain disorders, such as encephalopathy, which can cause short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental fogginess, problems with following conversations and sleep disturbance
- numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
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Identify The Tick You Were Bitten By
Its important to identify the tick because different kinds of ticks can carry different bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasites.
There are two families of ticks found in the United States: Ixodidae and Argasidae . Of the 700 species of hard ticks and 200 species of soft ticks found throughout the world, only a few are known to bite and transmit disease to humans. Knowing the type of tick will help you be aware of what possible symptoms to watch for.
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Stage : Early Localized Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually start 3 to 30 days after the tick bite. One of the earliest signs of the disease is a bulls-eye rash.
The rash occurs at the site of the tick bite, usually, but not always, as a central red spot surrounded by a clear spot with an area of redness at the edge. It may be warm to the touch, but its not painful and doesnt itch. This rash will gradually fade in most people.
The formal name for this rash is erythema migrans.
Some people with lighter skin have a rash thats solid red. Some people with darker skin may have a rash that resembles a bruise.
The rash can occur with or without systemic viral or flu-like symptoms.
Other symptoms commonly seen in this stage of Lyme disease include:
Youll have a general feeling of being unwell. A rash may appear in areas other than the tick bite.
This stage of the disease is primarily characterized by evidence of systemic infection, which means infection has spread throughout the body, including to other organs.
Symptoms can include:
- disturbances in heart rhythm, which can be caused by Lyme carditis
- neurologic conditions, such as numbness, tingling, facial and cranial nerve palsies, and meningitis
The symptoms of stages 1 and 2 can overlap.
Heart Palpitations Or Irregular Heartbeat
The CDC reports that when Lyme infection enters the tissues of the heart, it can cause cardiac symptoms called Lyme carditis. Basically, Lyme-causing bacteria start messing with the heart’s electrical signals, and can lead to irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
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Lyme Disease In Dogs And Other Pets
Household pets can get Lyme disease, too. Typical symptoms in animals include swollen joints and lameness, fever, and loss of appetite. Experts in the FDAs Center for Veterinary Medicine say that dogs with Lyme disease occasionally develop serious kidney disease that can be fatal.
There are ways you can reduce your pets risk for tick bites and Lyme disease. Regularly checking pets for all types of ticks, for instance, reduces the risk of infection for both pet and owner. Avoid allowing your dog to roam in tick-infested areas.
Topical, oral and/or collar products are also very important in preventing Lyme disease in dogs.
There are two basic types of Lyme disease vaccines available for dogs. Talk to your veterinarian to see if vaccination is appropriate for your dog. There is no vaccination for cats, which do not seem susceptible to Lyme disease.
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How To Monitor A Tick Bite
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Lyme Disease: Symptoms And Stages
Symptoms of early-stage Lyme disease include:
- muscle and joint aches
- swollen lymph nodes
Another common symptom of Lyme disease is a rash . As many as 80% of infected people may develop a rash, and roughly 20% of the time the rash has a characteristic bulls-eye appearance.
When left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Later-stage symptoms may not appear until weeks or months after a tick bite occurs. They include:
- heart-rhythm irregularities
- nervous system abnormalities
Permanent damage to the joints or the nervous system can develop in patients with late Lyme disease. It is rarely, if ever, fatal.
What Is Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
B. burgdorferi is transmitted to humans by a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick. The tick becomes infected after feeding on infected deer, birds, or mice.
A tick has to be present on the skin for approximately 36 to 48 hours to transmit the infection. Many people with Lyme disease have no memory of a tick bite.
Lyme disease was first recognized in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. Its the most common tick-borne illness in Europe and the United States.
People who live or spend time in wooded areas known for transmission of the disease are more likely to get this illness. Additionally, people with domesticated animals that visit wooded areas also have a higher risk of getting Lyme disease.
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Symptoms Of Tickborne Illness
Many tickborne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. If you get a tick bite and develop the symptoms below within a few weeks, see your healthcare provider.
The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses include:
- Fever/chills. All tickborne diseases can cause fever.
- Aches and pains. Tickborne diseases can cause headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. People with Lyme disease may also have joint pain.
Your healthcare provider should evaluate the following before deciding on a plan for treatment:
- Your symptoms,
- the geographic region where you were bitten, and
- lab tests, depending on the symptoms and the geographic region where you were bitten.
Tick paralysis is thought to be caused by a toxin in the saliva of an attached tick. People with tick paralysis can experience weakness or paralysis that gradually moves up the body. These symptoms can sometimes resemble other neurologic conditions . Patients typically regain movement within 24 hours of removing the tick. Learn more at Tick paralysis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopediaexternal icon.
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How To Prevent Lyme Disease From Progressing
Learn the symptoms of early Lyme disease so that you can seek treatment promptly if you contract the infection. If you get timely treatment, you can avoid the potential complications of early disseminated Lyme disease and later stages.
- rash, such as:
- a red, expanding bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite
- a round or oval rash that can be as wide as 6 to 8 inches
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What Does A Lyme Disease Rash Really Look Like These Pictures Explain It
You know the classic bulls-eye rashbut Lyme causes other types, like these.
A telling sign of Lyme disease is a red, circular or oval rash that expands over time like a bulls-eye. Doctors call it erythema migrans. But if youre looking for a bulls-eye pattern and ignoring other types of skin rashes and lesions, youre probably missing an important clue to your diagnosis. Surprise, surprise: relatively few Lyme rashes mimic the concentric circles of a dart board.
The classic target pattern represents just 20% of Lyme-related skin lesions in North America, notes John Aucott, MD, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Research Center.
Eighty percent dont look like that, and they constantly get misdiagnosed as spider or bug bites, he tells Health.
The fact is that Lyme disease rash can present itself in different ways, according to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. How it appears on your body may depend, in part, on how long youve had it and where it shows up on your body.
Generally, erythema migrans is circular, because it spreads centrifugally from the point of the tick bite, says Dr. Aucott. But it can be more oval or elongated in shape if, for instance, the tick took its blood meal in the groove of your groin.
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Recognizing The Rash After A Tick Bite
It is important to understand that a rash is not always present or easily recognizable in early Lyme disease, and this can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment.
Please refer to our poster of varied Lyme disease rash manifestations as a helpful identification tool.
When present, it is wise to take a picture of the rash with the date for your medical record, since a rash compatible with erythema migrans rash should prompt urgent evaluation and treatment. Lyme disease is most successfully treated in this first stage.
If you have a suspicious rash or your symptoms persist, please seek medical care immediately.
The erythema migrans Lyme disease rash is:
- Round or oval, enlarges in size over days/weeks, & will not fade in a few days
- Usually greater than 2 inches in diameter, often 6-8
- Usually uniformly red
- Sometimes but not often, a bulls eye rash with a red ring surrounding a clear area and red center
- Minimally tender, minimally itchy , and sometimes warm
- Often confused with spider bites
The incubation period from tick bite to rash is usually 3-10 days but can be 30 days.
The Lyme rash can spread through the bloodstream to other areas of the skin.
Sometimes blisters develop in the center of the rash.
Tick bite reactions are often confused with the rash of Lyme disease.
Tick bite reactions:
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Tick Bite Swelling In The Groin And Lyme Disease
Tick bite swelling or rash in the groin area is also common in animals, mainly horses. The swollen part may be tender to touch and the animal might not allow you or the vet to examine it. To know when tick bite swelling might turn to Lymes disease is to watch out for a red rash along with fever and muscle aches. This generally occurs a few weeks after the bite has first occurred. The rash usually extends up to 5cm in the given area. The lesions accompanying the rash may appear reddish blue in color though rarely with a bulls eye formation. This rash is the main symptom of Lymes and is called Erythema Migrans. Nearly 70 to 80% people bitten by ticks are likely to develop such a rash, but only 2% of all tick bite rashes actually develop into Lymes disease. The typical incubation period between the actually time of bite to development of Lymes is 3-30 days.
In Lymes disease, the hard tick bite swelling and rash in the groin do not go away rather they continue to grow and spread. Often primary health care providers have mistaken such a rash to occur due to spider bites.
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.
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