Lyme disease is the most commonly known disease caused by tick bites in the Northern Hemisphere. Approximately 70,000 cases are reported in the United States on an annual basis. Also called Lyme Borreliosis, the condition is thought to be caused by at least three members of the Borrelia family (a family of bacteria with over 36 types that are transmitted mainly by the bites of infected ticks and some species of lice). The disease received it name from Lyme, Connecticut in the US after the discovery of multiply cases (in children) in 1975.
Symptoms Lyme disease
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, depression, headaches and circular rashes on the skin called erythema migrans. The rashes can appear anywhere between one day to a month after being bitten by an infected insect. Contrary to popular beliefs, the rash is not indicative of an allergic reaction but a bacterial infection. In the absence of treatment, symptoms could progress to complications of the joints, central nervous system and the heart.
If left untreated or treated at a late stage, more severe symptoms can develop that are not only hard to treat but can also be disabling. In some instances, arthritis caused by Lyme disease as well as some after symptoms may remain after treatment suggesting that Borrelia can lead to autoimmunity (a condition in which the body recognizes parts of itself as harmful, causing the immune system to fight the cells or tissues thought to be foreign agents).
Stage two of Lyme disease is characterized by paralysis of the facial nerves, stiffness of the neck, abnormal heart rhythm, numbness of the extremities and weakness. The incubation period for the final stage of the disease is 6 week to 2 years after the infected bite or bites.
It is possible for Lyme disease to go untreated because the symptoms are similar to many other conditions, the most obvious sign is the rash resulting from the bite which can appear within the first 48 hours after infection takes place. However, since the range of time runs for 24 hours to 1 month, this telltale sign can also appear at a late stage in the infection. Rashes can still be misinterpreted even if they appear early since many people will mistake them for allergic reactions.
The vagueness of the symptoms that characterize Lyme disease is not the only problem when diagnosing the infection. The disease is one that can prove rather evasive during testing. Unlike most viral infections, this condition cannot be easily spotted using tissue cultures and blood tests are only successful if certain antibodies are produced. Even in these cases, the antibodies may be undetectable or show up late in the disease’s development. It often takes an evaluation of a person’s medical history, symptoms and test results for Lyme disease to be suspected.
Treating Lyme disease
2 to 3 weeks of antibiotics like Amoxicillin or Tetracycline is often sufficient to treat early stages of the disease while a long period and more intense treatment is needed for advance stages.