Lyme disease is a tick borne bacterial infection. You can be infected by the bite of a deer tick. One of Lyme disease’s telltale signs is a rash, called an Erythema migrans rash. This rash typically occurs within the first 2 weeks of infection, and it looks like a bullseye target. Although most prevalent in New England and some of the Midwestern states, you can be infected anytime you are outdoors. Lyme disease has been reported in 49 states (Hawaii has not had a confirmed case of Lyme Disease), and in every continent, except Antarctica.
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose. Oftentimes, people either do not get a rash. Some people get flu-like symptoms within the first 2 weeks from the infection. Bell’s Palsy can often occur. That is where you lose muscle control on one side of your face, and it appears to droop. Other symptoms can be fatigue, joint pain and swelling, eye inflammation, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms usually occur in the first 2 weeks of the infection. However, these are such general symptoms, they can be diagnosed incorrectly.
Some people have “chronic Lyme disease”. This is officially called Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. This can occur if you are diagnosed months, or even years after the original tick bite. When this happens, Lyme disease can attack your nervous system, cardiovascular system and can often lead to other diseases, such as Hepatitis B, Guillian-Barre Syndrome and even Meningitis. These are auto-immune responses that your body creates as it tries to fight the infection.
Testing for Lyme disease is a 2 step process. The first step is to test the blood to look for Lyme disease enzymes. If this first test is positive, then an immunoblot test is done, typically called a “Western blot” test. If that is also positive, the diagnosis is complete.
Treatment of Lyme disease is the same, whether it is immediately after the tick bite, or months later. Since Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, it is treated with a 2 to 4 week trial of antibiotics.
There is still much more research to be done on Lyme disease. The use of ongoing antibiotics for Post Lyme Disease Syndrome can cause serious complications, such as liver function abnormalities and infection and blood clots at the site of a catheter used to administer antibiotics. If you suspect you may have been bitten by a deer tick, consult your doctor immediately. If you have been treated for Lyme disease, but are still experiencing symptoms, see your doctor. Your doctor may be able to treat your symptoms.
There are ways of preventing Lyme disease. Reducing exposure to ticks is the best way. If you are outside, apply tick repellant that contains DEET. There are also natural remedies of repelling ticks. Using essential oils, such as garlic, peppermint, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, thyme and geraniol. These natural treatments, however, have not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, since essential oils are not regulated by the EPA. There used to be a Lyme disease vaccination, but production was discontinued in 2002, due to low demand. Experts say the protection provided by the vaccination diminishes over time, so if you received the vaccine in the past, it would most likely not be effective by now.