What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected tick. It is important to diagnose and treat the disease as soon as possible to prevent it from developing into serious complications.
You are more likely to get the disease if you visit wooded or grassy areas where ticks that can transmit the infection live, so it is important to follow a number of prevention tips.
Prognosis of the disease
The disease can be very aggressive as soon as it affects the body, as it spreads through the osteoarticular system and the nervous system.
In other patients, it is possible to be treated with antibiotics if detected early, to avoid various complications such as arthritis, memory problems or inflammation of the spinal cord, among others.
It is important to follow trails in at-risk areas.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
The main symptomatology of Lyme disease may begin as early as the third day or as late as one month after the tick bite.
The most common symptoms are as follows:
- Red rash known as erythema migrans.
- Fever or chills.
- Joint and muscle pain.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
If the infection is not treated, it may spread throughout the body (joints, heart and nervous system). In this case, the symptoms may worsen:
- Nerve pain.
- Shooting pains.
- Facial paralysis, on one or both sides of the face.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Severe headache.
- Rashes in various areas of the body.
- Swollen brain or spinal cord.
- difficulty breathing
Medical tests for Lyme disease
The specialist will first assess the symptoms presented and find out if the patient has been in risk areas with ticks, since there are other pathologies that can present a similar medical picture.
In many cases it is detected from a laboratory test, which determines if the patient has Lyme disease antibodies. The test may need to be repeated because if the infection is recent, the body will not have had to produce these antibodies.
What causes Lyme disease?
The disease is caused by a bacterium that is spread by the bite of an infected tick, usually the so-called blacklegged or deer ticks.
Ticks manage to attach themselves to people’s bodies and, in many cases, in hidden areas such as the armpits or hair. To transmit the disease, they usually need to be attached for about 36 hours.
Can it be prevented?
To prevent infection it is important to minimize the risk of being bitten by a tick. Therefore, it is important to follow these tips:
- Use repellent with DEET.
- Wear long-sleeved, protective clothing, preferably with light colors to be able to see a possible tick attachment.
- Wear your shirt tucked into your pants, as well as your pants into your socks.
- Avoid tick-inhabited areas. In case of entering a forest, follow the trails.
- After a hike, shower and wash your clothes as soon as possible.
- Do a daily check for ticks.
Treatments for Lyme disease
Treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotic-based and, as mentioned, it is important to start treatment as soon as possible. This way, there is a better chance of a quick recovery.
In patients whose central nervous system is affected, the antibiotic is usually administered intravenously, with a treatment duration of two to four weeks.
Once treatment is completed, there are cases where there are still some symptoms of pain or fatigue, which can last up to six months longer. This is known as “post-treatment Lyme syndrome”.
What specialist treats it?
Lyme disease should be diagnosed and treated initially by a family physician.