Lyme disease can cause serious problems and is often difficult to diagnose. The symptoms of lyme disease often mimic other ailments and illnesses making it hard to pin point the problem. Lyme disease was first discovered in the mid-70’s when doctors reported an unusual amount of children suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Most of the children lived in rural, wooded areas, and it was soon discovered that ticks were carrying the disease to children and adults alike.
The most common symptom of lyme disease is a rash that appears, usually around the area where bitten by a tick. The rash often resembles a bulls-eye or target but can be circular, triangular or even oval-shaped. The rash can stay small or grow to the size of a basketball or larger. Usually the rash is noticed within four weeks of the bite and can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Fever, headache and fatigue are the most prevalent of the symptoms.
After a few weeks, when left untreated, the tick bite can cause painful arthritis of the joints. These symptoms can last days or months and often attack the knee joints. Continually left untreated lyme disease can cause chronic arthritis pain and symptoms.
Lyme disease can also cause many neurological problems such as stiff neck, headaches, pain or weakness in limbs and difficulty concentrating. Although neurological symptoms are frightening and can be somewhat debilitating these symptoms usually disappear after days or months.
Heart problems can often accompany the other symptoms of lyme disease. Slow heartbeat, irregular heartbeat or shortness of breath are often noticeable. Less likely symptoms include eye inflammation, hepatitis and severe fatigue.
The easiest way for a physician to diagnose lyme disease is to notice the rash that appears but in many people, there is no rash. If the person remembers being bitten by a tick that’s important information for a physician but most people do not know they’ve been bitten since tick bites are rarely painful.
It’s also very difficult for a physician to diagnose lyme disease by doing a simple blood test. Although an increase in antibodies may be present this can simply indicate a previous infection of any number of sources. More likely, a physician can eliminate certain diseases, narrowing the possibilities down to just a few, one of which could be lyme.
Antibiotics work well on lyme disease, for most people. Amoxicillin, penicillin or erythromycin are most commonly used for lyme disease treatment. Within a few weeks or months of beginning the antibody treatment most patients respond well. Even after all other symptoms have vanished many people still complain of constant fatigue. This is one symptom that usually disappears over a long period of time.
Preventing contact with ticks that have been in contact with deer is the best way to avoid the effects of lyme disease. Deer ticks are generally found in wooded areas but can survive in your own back yard. Infection usually takes place during late spring, summer and fall.
Use insect repellent on skin when going outdoors. If going in thick woods wear long pants and long sleeve shirts sprayed with the repellent. Treat all pets with flea and tick medications and immediately wash all clothes after walking in wooded areas or places with tall grasses.
Since ticks can’t transmit the infection until it has feasted, the tick must stay on the body some time before infection will take place. Shower after long hikes in the woods to help lessen the risk of a tick staying on your body. Check places like head and behind ears, armpits, neck and legs for ticks immediately upon exiting the woods.
If you’re bitten by a tick gently but firmly pull the head of the tick out of the skin with tweezers. Do not touch the tick with bare hands. Swab the area with antiseptic. If rash develops immediately inform your doctor.