Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease that is caused by the bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks, which feed on the blood of animals and humans can harbor the bacteria and spread it at the time of feeding.
You're more prone to suffer from Lyme disease if you live or spend time in grassy and heavily wooded areas where ticks carrying the disease thrive. It's important to take some common precautions in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.
If you are treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the disease, you are likely to recover completely. In later stages, response to treatment can be slower, but the majority of people with who are having Lyme disease recover completely.
Causes of Lyme disease
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is carried primarily by deer ticks. The ticks are brown and when young, they're often no bigger than the head of a pin, which makes them nearly impossible to spot.
An infected deer tick must bite you to suffer from Lyme disease. The bacteria go into your skin through the bite and eventually make their way into your bloodstream. In most cases, to transmit Lyme disease, a deer tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours.
If you found that an attached tick that appears like swollen, it may have fed long enough to spread bacteria. Extracting the tick as early as possible can prevent infection.
Complications related with Lyme disease
If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause:
- Chronic joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis), particularly of the knee
- Neurological symptoms, like facial palsy and neuropathy
- Cognitive defects, like impaired memory
- Heart rhythm irregularities
Treatment for Lyme disease
Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease. Generally, recovery will be much quicker and complete as early as the treatment begins.
- Antibiotics - These are the standard treatment for early-stage Lyme disease. These generally involve doxycycline for adults and children older than 8, or amoxicillin or cefuroxime for adults, younger children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. A 15- to 21-day course of antibiotics is generally advised, but some studies suggest that courses lasting 10 to 14 days are equally effective.
- Intravenous antibiotics - If the disease involves the central nervous system, your doctor may advise treatment with an intravenous antibiotic for 14 to 28 days. This is effective in eliminating infection however it may take some time to recover from your symptoms. Intravenous antibiotics can cause various side effects, including a lower white blood cell count, mild to severe diarrhea, or colonization or infection with other antibiotic resistant organisms unrelated to Lyme.
After treatment, a small number of people still experience some symptoms, like muscle aches and fatigue. The cause of these continuing symptoms is unknown, and treating with more antibiotics doesn't help.
Some experts believe that certain people who get Lyme disease are predisposed to develop an autoimmune response that contributes to their symptoms. More research is needed.