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 thereâs 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.
Arthritis And Lyme Disease
Lyme disease was first recognized in 1975, after researchers investigated unusually large numbers of children being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in Lyme, Connecticut, and two neighboring towns.
The investigators discovered that most of the affected children lived near wooded areas that are likely to harbor ticks. They also found that the childrens first symptoms typically started in the summer months, coinciding with the height of the tick season. Several of the patients reported having a peculiar skin rash just before developing arthritis symptoms, and many recalled being bitten by a tick at the rash site. The recent growth of the deer population in the American Northeast and the increased building of suburban developments in previously rural areas, where deer ticks are commonly found, has probably contributed to the increasing number of people contracting the disease.
Here are some more details:
Is There A Vaccine For Lyme Disease
A vaccine for Lyme disease was once available in the United States, but it is no longer available. The vaccines manufacturer discontinued its production in 2002, citing low sales.
According to a 2011 analysis, there were likely a number of factors leading to the decision to suspend the vaccine. These factors included:
- Class-action lawsuits
- Low public support due to efforts by anti-vaccine groups
- Concerns that the vaccine could cause arthritis
- A difficult vaccination schedule.
The CDC also notes that the vaccine loses effectiveness over time, meaning that youre probably no longer protected against Lyme disease today if you received the vaccine when it was available.
In July 2017, the FDA granted Fast Track designation for another Lyme disease vaccine candidate, VLA15. The FDA designation is intended to facilitate development and expedite review of drugs that treat serious conditions in order to get them to patients faster.
Additional reporting by George Vernadakis.
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Can Lyme Disease Be Cured
Even when treated in later stages, most patients will respond well to antibiotics, though there may be some chronic damage to the nervous system or joints.
The type of tick that carries Lyme disease feeds on deer and mice, and can only infect a human if it remains attached to a person for at least a day and a half.
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What Are The Stages Of Lyme Infection
There are three stages:
- Early localized Lyme: Flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, headache, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and a rash that looks like a bulls-eye or is round and red and at least 2 inches long
- Early disseminated Lyme: Flu-like symptoms like pain, weakness, or numbness in your arms and legs, changes in your vision, heart palpitations and chest pain, a rash , and a type of facial paralysis known as Bellâs palsy
- Late disseminated Lyme: This can happen weeks, months, or years after the tick bite. Symptoms might include arthritis, severe fatigue and headaches, dizziness, trouble sleeping, and confusion.
About 10% of people treated for Lyme infection donât shake the disease. They may go on to have three core symptoms: joint or muscle pain, fatigue, and short-term memory loss or confusion. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. It can be hard to diagnose because it has the same symptoms as other diseases. Plus, there isnt a blood test to confirm it.
Experts arenât sure why Lyme symptoms donât always go away. One theory is that your body keeps fighting the infection even after the bacteria are gone, like an autoimmune disorder.
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Why Are Antibiotics The First Line Of Treatment For Lyme Disease
The use of antibiotics is critical for treating Lyme disease. Without antibiotic treatment, the Lyme disease causing bacteria can evade the host immune system, disseminate through the blood stream, and persist in the body. Antibiotics go into the bacteria preferentially and either stop the multiplication of the bacteria or disrupt the cell wall of the bacteria and kill the bacteria . By stopping the growth or killing the bacteria the human host immune response is given a leg up to eradicate the residual infection. Without antibiotics, the infection in Lyme disease can evade the host immune system and more readily persist.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Symptoms and signs of Lyme disease vary with the stage of the disease. Symptoms of the early stage of Lyme disease include the following:
- Flulike illness
In patients in the late stage of the disease, the most common symptom is arthritis, located mostly in large joints, especially the knee. Symptoms of Lyme arthritis include warmth, swelling from fluid, and limited range of motion.
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Late Persistent Lyme Disease
Late persistent Lyme disease usually occurs in those who did not receive early treatment. It’s the most severe stage and can occur months to years following the initial infection. Damage to the joints, nerves, and brain is possible if not treated.
Muscle and joint pain is the most common complaint of those in late-stage Lyme disease, affecting 80% of untreated people. Lyme arthritis, which occurs in 50% of cases, can cause swelling and pain, usually in one knee, but can be present in both knees or other large joints.
Various neurological symptoms can occur depending on the area of the nervous system affected. Some symptoms may be similar to stage 2 but can be more extensive, severe, or longer-lasting. If the infection has traveled to the brain, you may experience:
- Difficulty following conversations and processing information
- Mental fogginess
- Trouble sleeping
- Vertigo or dizziness
Oral antibiotics are typically used for Lyme arthritis, while intravenous antibiotics treat neurologic issues. The length of therapy can be two to four weeks, depending on the symptoms.
Are There Alternative Treatments For Lyme Disease
There are a variety of alternative treatments aimed at patients who believe they may have Lyme disease. But the effectiveness of these treatments is not supported by scientific evidence, and in many cases they are potentially harmful.
Bismacine, also known as chromacine, is an alternative-medicine drug that some people use to treat their Lyme disease.
The Food and Drug Administration warns that people should not use this injectable product, which has reportedly caused hospitalization and at least one death. 70563-1.pdf rel=nofollow> 6)
In addition, the FDA notes that bismacine contains high levels of bismuth, which can cause heart and kidney failure.
Other alternative treatments include oxygen therapy, light therapy, and a variety of nutritional or herbal supplements. But there is no evidence that these treatments are clinically effective in the treatment of Lyme disease.
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Early Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Early symptoms will typically develop 1 to 4 weeks after being bitten, however, they can appear anytime between 3 to 30 days after exposure.
Many people with early-stage Lyme disease develop a distinctive circular red rash usually, but not always, at the site of the tick bite.
The rash is often described as looking like a bulls-eye on a dart board and is known as erythema migrans. The affected area of skin will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised.
The size of the rash can vary significantly and it may expand over several days or weeks. Typically, its around 15cm across but it can be much larger or smaller than this.
Some people may develop several rashes on different parts of their body. However, around one in every 3 people with Lyme disease do not report seeing a rash.
As well as a rash, people with early Lyme disease may experience any of the following:
- flu-like symptoms such as fever and sweats, chills, fatigue, neck pain or stiffness, headaches, joint or muscle pains
- paralysis of the facial muscles, typically only on one side of the face
- nerve pains, which may be shooting, sharp or prickly and which follow the course of the nerve
Treatment For Chronic Lyme Disease
Sometimes, people go through treatment for Lyme disease but their symptoms donÃ¢t go away. If this lasts over 6 months, itÃ¢s known as chronic Lyme disease or Ã¢post-treatment Lyme disease syndromeÃ¢ .
Doctors still arenÃ¢t sure why some people get PTLDS. Some believe that getting Lyme disease may cause damage to your tissues or immune system. Others believe itÃ¢s because the bacteria that causes Lyme hasnÃ¢t completely gone away.
There is little evidence that taking more antibiotics at this stage will help. They may actually be harmful. Instead, your doctor will focus on treating the symptoms youÃ¢re still having. This will be different for everyone. Some people could benefit from a medicine that relieves fatigue, while others may need a drug that can help with headaches or very sensitive skin.
More research is needed to figure out how best to treat PTLDS. ItÃ¢s something that can be frustrating. Just remember: Many people who have this condition do start feeling like their old selves after a few months.
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Stage : Early Localized Lyme Disease
Stage 1 or early localized Lyme disease occurs 128 days following a tick bite.
Some people with stage one Lyme disease do not experience any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include the following:
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Early Localized Lyme Disease
During this stage, the infection has not yet spread to other parts of the body. Diagnosing Lyme disease during stage 1 gives you the best chances of a quicker recovery.
Early localized Lyme disease commonly begins with a rash called erythema migrans. This rash, which occurs in 70% to 80% of infected people, typically develops seven days after a bite but can occur within three to 30 days.
The rash grows slowly over several days and can be more than 12 inches in diameter. The rash may be warm to the touch but is not usually painful or itchy. Some people may develop the classic bulls eye rash, but the rash’s appearance can vary greatly.
The following symptoms may also be present with or without a rash:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
People treated during this stage often recover quickly and completely. Treatment involves 10 to 14 days of oral antibiotics.
Unfortunately, 10% to 25% of cases may go unnoticed and progress to later stages of the disease.
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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.
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.
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Test For Lyme Disease At Home With Everlywell
Lyme disease can be frightening, especially in late intervention cases. But itâs important to remember that antibiotic treatment is a highly effective Lyme disease treatment at all stagesâwith help from your healthcare provider, youâll recover from Lyme disease.
Identification is the first step to treating Lyme diseaseâand, with help from Everlywell, you can test for Lyme disease antibodies from the comfort of your home.
Our at-home Lyme disease panel tests for infection from three different types of Borrelia bacteri that can result in Lyme disease. Testing is easy:
- Register your kit using the unique ID number on the package
- Collect your sample and mail it to the laboratory using the prepaid shipping label
- Receive your secure, digital results in just days
Everlywell is putting the power of testing in your handsâcheck out our full slate of at-home lab tests for Lyme disease, heart health, and more.
What Is Post Lyme Disease Syndrome
Although most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with a 2- to 4-week course of oral antibiotics, patients can sometimes have symptoms of pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking that lasts for more than 6 months after they finish treatment. This condition is called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome .
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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.
Untreated Stage 2 Lyme Disease
If these symptoms go untreated or are misdiagnosed, you can expect your symptoms to worsen and begin to interfere with daily functioning.
This is the time to seek a second opinion from a specialist. Your general practitioner has not resolved your symptoms despite multiple treatments, and therefore, you need a clinician with expertise in infectious diseases.
A Lyme-literate doctor is an infectious disease specialist. If you have symptoms and your regular doctor cannot figure out why you have them, seek help elsewhere. The sooner you find the right doctor, the quicker you can receive a correct diagnosis and advanced treatments.
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Signs Of Lyme Disease That Appear On Your Skin
Signs of Lyme disease
If you see a rash or another sign of Lyme disease on your skin, see your primary doctor right away. When caught early and treated, Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics and most people recover fully.
Lyme disease is caused by a bite from a black-legged tick. If you are bitten by this tick and develop Lyme disease, you may see a bulls-eye rash. Its a common sign of Lyme disease, but its not the only sign.
Lyme disease occurs in stages. Heres what you may see on your skin during each stage.
Using Antibiotics To Treat Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics, although the type of antibiotic used depends on what stage of the disease you have.
After you remove a deer tick that has been attached to you for at least 36 hours the amount of time it takes for the tick to transmit the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi theres a 72-hour window during which your doctor may give you a single dose of the antibiotic doxycycline to prevent the development of Lyme disease.
Doxycycline is prescribed to patients age 8 and older, except for pregnant women. Not everyone in this situation will receive doxycycline the deer tick bite needs to have occurred in a highly endemic area .
If you have localized Lyme disease with the telltale bulls-eye rash, also known as erythema migrans, but no other significant symptoms, your doctor will most likely treat you with oral doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime for 10 to 14 days. If you have early disseminated Lyme disease, which may include the characteristic rash along with cardiac or neurologic symptoms, the treatment duration is lengthened to 14 to 21 days.
Late disseminated Lyme disease is also treated with various antibiotics:
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