Lyme Disease head pic

Lyme Disease

If you are a city dweller you may not have heard of Lyme disease. It’s a slow moving disease caught from tick bites (deer ticks). You are likely to get bit walking out in the country side, working around animals or on holiday and therefore not so likely if you are hanging out in the concrete jungle. Its more common in the USA however there are 2000 – 3000 cases a year in the UK and 10-15% are picked up abroad. Symptoms can be minor and unnoticeable at first but can develop over weeks or months and sometimes even years. Lyme disease can affect your skin, nervous system and joints and, if left untreated, can have serious long term consequences such as muscle weakness, heart and nerve problems and arthritis.

+   Symptoms

Early symptoms – can occur at any time within 2-30 days after the tick bite:

  • Rash
    • Usually starts with a red bump at the site of the tick bite, this is normal of a tick bite and doesn’t mean you have Lyme disease as only a few ticks carry the disease
    • If you have Lyme disease however, the small red bump will develop a red ring around it like a bulls-eye (this rash is called erythema migrans)
    • 90% of people who have Lyme disease will get the rash in the first 30 days
    • This is the easiest point at which to diagnose Lyme disease and the quicker it is diagnosed the more effective treatment will be. However, bites can be in unnoticeable if in places like on the scalp or in the armpit
  • Flu symptoms
    • Lyme disease in its early stages may present flu-like symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish from the flu
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Body Aches
    • Headache
    • Fatigue

Later symptoms can occur weeks or months to even years after the bite

It can be difficult to diagnose Lyme disease later on as it presents symptoms that are common with other illnesses and ailments. Blood tests can help to confirm Lyme disease but aren’t always 100% correct

  • Joint Pain
    • Severe pain in joints
    • Swelling in joints
    • Especially in the knees
  • Neurological
    • Meningitis (membranes surrounding the brain get inflamed)
    • Bell’s palsy (temporary paralysis on one part of your face)
    • Numbness or weakness in limbs
    • Impaired muscle movements
  • Other possible symptoms
    • Temporary heart arrhythmia (abnormal heart beats)
    • Eye inflammation
    • Liver inflammation
    • Fatigue

If you think you have been bitten by a tick and show any of the symptoms of Lyme disease even if they disappear again, you should definitely pay the Doc a visit. Treatment is far more effective if started early. There are also other diseases you can pick up from ticks like babesiosis and Colorado tick fever.

+   Causes

Lyme disease is caused by

  • Bacteria called burgdarferi bacteria which like to hang out in the digestive system of some animals (such as deer and rodents)
  • Ticks (gross little bugs) then bite the animals, feed on their blood and get infected themselves
  • Transfer to you when they bite you and feed on your blood (also unpleasant)
  • Infection slowly passes through your skin into your blood and lymph system
  • Ticks can be the size of a pin head and it is very likely a bite may go unnoticed

+   Risks factors

Hanging out in certain places will increase your chances of getting Lyme disease and the longer the tick hangs out on your skin and sucks your blood the higher your risk becomes. If you knock them off quickly when they bite your risk is much less.

  • Woodland
    • New Forest
  • Heath areas
    • Yorkshire Moors
    • Lake District
    • Exmoor
  • Working with or near tick carrying animals (deer and sheep)
  • Hiking
  • Camping

+   Prevention

You can reduce your chance of catching Lyme disease if you take some precautionary measures when you visit places were getting a tick bite is likely

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts
  • Tuck trousers into your socks (it’s coming back into style? OK maybe it’s not, but it is cooler than a rash, joint pain and face paralysis)
  • Insect repellent
  • Tick check (make it a fun activity with your boyfriend)
    • Be sure to check your scalp, armpits and pubic hair as they are easy places for ticks to hide out

+   Removal of ticks

  • Start by gently gripping the tick as close to the skin as possible (ewww!)
  • Pull steadily away from skin making sure to get all of it
  • You can use tweezers or you can get special tick removal devices from most pet shops
  • You should not use a lit cigarette end, match head or essential oils

+   Treatment

  • For many of us our immune system will fight the infection and we’ll be ok without treatment and wont develop Lyme Disease… if not though..
  • Antibiotics are fairly effective at treating Lyme disease
  • You may need to take them for 2-4 weeks
  • If your condition is particularly severe you may need to get an injection of antibiotics
    • Antibiotics that treat Lyme disease can increase your skins sensitivity to the sun
  • There is no vaccine for Lyme disease. There was one invented in America but it was discontinued due to concerns about its side effects

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