Photo by Nature-Pix on Pixabay
What is Lyme disease? Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It’s most common in the northeastern United States and other parts of the country where it’s also known as the tick capital of the world. An estimated 30,000 people in upstate New York alone are infected with this bacteria every year. While only about 10% of those who become infected experience symptoms, if you have a strong immune system (such as if you have HIV or cancer) those symptoms can be severe, including arthritis, heart problems, and nerve pain. According to the CDC, people get bitten by ticks that carry this bacteria when they walk through forested areas or fields. If a tick bites an exposed area like your neck or groin, it has access to human blood — but not enough to infect you with Lyme disease unless you have a weak immune system. However, if you spend time in fields where deer live and grass grows tall around your home or workplace, there’s more opportunity for the tick to bite you and transmit this bacteria so it doesn’t take much for it to do so. The longer you spend in these areas without taking precautions against tick bites, the greater your risk of getting Lyme disease.
What is the difference between Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections?
Lyme disease, along with other tick-borne infections, is caused by bacteria. A true bacterial infection can be easily cured with antibiotics. These bacteria are called spirochetes, and they cause a wide range of health problems. For example, they may cause diseases like heart and neurological infections, arthritis, and cancer. Some types of bacteria that cause tick-borne infections are found worldwide. Lyme disease, on the other hand, is primarily found in the Northeast of the United States and western Europe. Other types of these bacteria can also be transmitted by mosquitoes and other insects, so you can’t always pin the blame on ticks for Lyme or other infections.
How does Lyme disease spread?
Lyme disease can be spread when a tick bites an infected person. The tick may have picked up the bacteria from the infected person’s skin or from the blood it sucked from an infected person’s skin. After the tick bites an infected person, it may then attach itself to another person or animal. The infected tick may also carry the bacteria to other areas where it can infect more people. Bites from infected ticks are common in forests and other areas with tall grass and dense shrubbery. Inside houses, infected ticks can crawl between carpets and furniture, making it difficult to avoid getting bitten.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually appear between two weeks and three months after you’ve been bitten by the infected tick. If you’ve been bitten by a tick and haven’t gone to the doctor yet, keep an eye out for these symptoms: If you have a mild case of Lyme disease, you may feel a little tired or have a headache, but you may not have any other symptoms. If your symptoms are milder or don’t appear for a few months after you’ve been bitten, this is called a silent infection and is no cause for concern. If you have a moderate case of Lyme disease, you may start to notice some vague symptoms such as joint and muscle pain or fatigue. You may have a mild fever, too, and feel dizzy or have a metallic taste in your mouth. If you have a more severe case of Lyme disease, you may have a more pronounced set of symptoms including a fever, disorientation, and difficulty walking. You may also have pain in your joints and muscles and a stiff neck.
Treatment for Lyme disease
If you’re diagnosed with Lyme disease, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria in your body. This treatment is effective in curing the infection and will prevent further infection. You may need several weeks of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria. When you finish the antibiotics, be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment so your doctor can monitor you for any side effects from the treatment.
Deer ticks and bloodsuckers are two types of ticks that can spread Lyme disease in different ways.
Deer ticks are small and brown. They are commonly found in forests and wooded areas. Deer ticks can survive for months without feeding and can transmit several different types of bacteria. Blacklegged ticks are also commonly known as deer ticks. They are larger and have a darker colour. You can find these ticks near wooded areas, grassy fields, and forests. Blacklegged ticks may also feed on smaller animals.
Prevention strategies to avoid contracting Lyme disease
Protect yourself against ticks by wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when you walk through grassy areas. Also, walk in the centre of the trails and avoid walking through tall grasses and weeds. If you spend time in these areas, take precautions to avoid getting bitten by ticks.
Where do you get more information about Lyme disease?
If you’re curious about Lyme disease, you can find out more information at the National Lyme Disease Association. This is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about this condition and offers helpful tips and resources to those who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a serious infection that’s transmitted by ticks. When you have Lyme disease, you can experience a variety of symptoms such as joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations, and fatigue. If you’re diagnosed, you can prevent and treat the infection with antibiotics. You can find more information about Lyme disease from the National Lyme Disease Association.