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Diseases & Conditions

Lyme Disease

Lyme DiseaseCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is the result of a tick bite from the genus lxodes. If caught early it is easily treatable. If the disease is not treated the patient may have permanent damage to the heart, joints and central nervous system.

Causes of Lyme Borreliosis

Lyme disease occurs when a tick bites an individual and deposits a bacteria into the bloodstream. There are three different species of bacteria that cause this disease and they all belong to the genus Borrelia.

  • Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto is the primary bacteria that causes Lyme disease in the United States.
  • Borrelia afzeli and Borrelia garinii tend to cause Lyme borreliosis in European and Asian countries.

The tick picks up the bacteria by biting rodents who are carriers. These ticks then bit a human and transfer the bacteria. In Europe the culprit is mostly the sheep tick, also known as the castor bean tick. In China it is the taiga tick that can transfer Lyme disease. In America it is the deer tick that is best known for cause Lyme borreliosis.

Medications for Lyme Borreliosis

Doxycycline, Amoxicillin, Erythromycin and Ceftrixone are all considered acceptable antibiotic treatments for those bitten by a tick. In late stage Lyme disease Ceftriaxone or Minocycline are used for at least 4 weeks. Individuals suffering from the chronic effects of Lyme Borreliosis are treated with anti-inflammatories like Hydroxychloroquine and Methotrexate for arthritis like symptoms. Patients suffering from neurological pain are treated with Gabapentin and intravenous Ceftriaxone.

Prevention of Lyme Disease

To prevent being bitten by a tick it is best to wear long pants tucked into boots or socks, long sleeved shirts and hats before venturing into woodsy areas where ticks are prevalent. Wear light colors as it is easier to find ticks on the clothing. Pets can bring ticks into the home so it is advisable to check them thoroughly or treat with an appropriate agent to prevent or kill ticks. Removal of the primary hosts such as rats and mice, deer and small mammals are another means of preventing spread of the disease. Use of guneafowl is a tick infested area is a green alternative. These birds have a special fondness for ticks and can quickly clear an area.

Risk Factors for Lyme Borreliosis

Individuals who live in, or visit areas where ticks carrying the disease are known to exist are at the greatest risk. This is also true for individuals who work outdoors including landscapers and park workers. Lyme disease is most prevalent in the northeast, mid-Atlantic and north central areas of the United States so those who live or travel to these areas are at a greater risk for getting Lyme disease. Those who choose to wear summer clothing and leave large amounts of skin exposed are at higher risk than individuals who dress in more protective gear.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease affects the whole body cause numerous physical symptoms. It takes about two weeks from a tick bite for the disease to begin showing itself. However there are circumstances where it can take days to manifest or even months or years. Early signs include a circular rash called erythema migrans at the site of the bite. As the rash progresses it comes to look like a bulls-eye. Along with this rash an individual may experience symptoms similar to the flu including fever, headache and muscle aches. As Lyme disease progresses, these rashes can appear all over the body. In Europe an individual may develop a purple lump on the scrotum, nipple or ear. Neurological symptoms can appear if untreated including palsy of the face, meningitis, headaches, light sensitivity, and a stiff neck.

Radiculoneuritis and encephalitis may also manifest and lead to altered mental states. If the disease is not treated the patient can experience severe chronic pain in the joints, paraplegia and ployneuropathy including tingling in the hands and feet. The individual may also have a hard time concentrating or have short term memory loss. Psychological effects can include anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis and somatoform delusions.

Treatment for Lyme Disease

The primary treatment for Lyme Disease is regimen of antibiotics lasting for 10 to 28 days. Late stage Lyme Borreliosis must be treated for at least four weeks with both intravenous and oral antibiotics. With chronic Lyme Disease the symptoms tend to be treated, as antibiotic medications at this time do not show significant improvement in the patient.

Types of Lyme Disease

While there are no distinguishing types of Lyme disease there is a division of clinical types depending on how the patient presents to a health care worker. Lyme arthritis and Lyme neuroborreliosis are considered different types of Lyme disease from a clinical standpoint. Lyme arthritis affects the joints much like typical arthritis. Lyme neuroborreliosis manifests as neurological problems.