Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick borne disease in the United States, which is enough to make just about anyone who enjoys a walk in the park or a good hike in the woods cringe.
Understanding lyme disease is therefore incredibly important if you live in North America and plan to spend time outside, or have a family with children who enjoy time outdoors.
As scary as it may seem, that you or your loved ones could contract lyme disease simply from taking a stroll in the park, doesn’t have to be so frightening. If recognized in time, lyme disease is absolutely treatable.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a vector borne illness, meaning carried by feeding arthropods, otherwise known as ‘Borreliosis’. This scientific term for lyme disease originates from its spiraling bacterium, Borrelia Burgdorferi.
Now, before jumping to conclusions, the tick is not completely to blame, as it is not the origin of this disease, rather the middle man. It may receive the culpability once it has fed on an animal carrying the bacteria. Then, the unlucky hosts that precede will be subjected to this bacteria.
The indiscriminately feeding tick will draw the blood from an infected animal, then detach and continue in the hunt for sustenance. The cycle continues, only in the next case, if all conditions allow, the tick will transmit pathogens over to the next host.
The disease itself is treatable and completely curable, hence why, through scientific analysis, the perfect conditions for transmittal of Lyme disease have been mapped out. This thankfully means we do know what to do in the case of a tick bite.
However, the complexity in this disease lies further down the road. As we will now see as we dissect its nature.
Understanding Lyme Disease: The Manifestation Process
Lyme disease will vary in acuteness in relation to its stage in the manifestation process.
In the initial stage of transmittal, whilst the tick is feeding, the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) found that there is a minimum time period in which the tick must be attached to have a likely chance of passing the bacterium over.
“In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.” CDC report
This means that the disease can easily be prevented. The best actions possible in the broad spectrum of solutions would be creating awareness of how it is contracted, how it is to be removed and any forethought on activities that may put you into contact with its biggest carriers.
If however, the tick has successfully transmitted the bacteria over, this would mean moving into the next stage of symptoms and using the appropriate treatment for mitigation of damage. The disease is curable, but doing so in a timely fashion is imperative to ensure there are no lasting effects.
The natural progression of the disease, once housed, is as follows:
First Stage Of The Disease
The first stage of lyme disease is known as “Early Localised Lyme Disease.” During this first stage of the disease, the illness has not yet spread through the body. However, there are definitely some tell-tale signs that begin to appear during the first stage. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next section.
Second Stage Of The Disease
The second stage of lyme disease is known as “Early disseminated Lyme Disease. At this point, the illness has actively begun to spread through the rest of the body. The exact symptoms of stage two lyme disease will be further inspected below.
Third Stage Of The Disease
The third and final stage of lyme disease is known as “Late Disseminated Lyme Disease.” Unfortunately, by this time in the game, the disease has quite successfully spread through the entire body. Again, the precise symptoms of third stage lyme disease will be expanded upon in the following section.
Fourth Stage Of The Disease
All three of the previously mentioned stages of lyme disease, as scary and troublesome as they can be, are treatable with the right antibiotics. There is however a fourth, unofficial stage of the disease, though not directly connected with the disease itself. This fourth stage is rather the irrevocable effects from lyme disease. The stage, or rather the fall-out associated with the disease, is often referred to as “Post Lyme Disease Syndrome.”
Understanding Lyme Disease: The Symptoms
Each stage of lyme disease comes with respectively different variations of symptoms, and as stated above,naturally progress in severity as the illness continually invades the valuable ‘real estate’ of your body. Understanding the symptoms, and recognizing their signs, of lyme disease, in all of its various stages can aid in your ability to treat the disease in time.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at each stage and their respective symptoms:
Stage One Lyme Disease Symptoms
The preliminary stages of early dissemination are emblematic of most disease progressions. Subtle illness symptoms which could be misinterpreted easily, are prevalent and easy to ignore. This may be its most successful trait when it comes to prolonging of habitation, as the bacteria will go undetected and continue to thrive.
The most significant symptoms of stage one lyme disease include, but are not limited to:
- Joint and muscle pains
There may also be a marking from where the arthropod attached, expanding in size. This progressive bruising like rash is known as erythema migrans, which may become painful.
Stage Two Lyme Disease Symptoms
Once the virus has spread further, more severe symptoms will arrive. It will now become evident that it may be lyme disease that is the culprit. This would be the obvious moment, if it wasn’t hitherto, to seek professional medical advice.
The main symptoms of stage two lyme disease include, but are not limited to:
- Hearing complications
- Weakness in facial muscles and potentially paralysis
- Early heart complications such as shortness of breath and palpitations
Stage Three Lyme Disease Symptoms
These latent symptoms can occur much later down the line, potentially even years after the initial contact. These are the precursor to what permanent damage may look like, in the existence of Post Lyme Disease Syndrome.
- Speech problems
- Cognitive complications
- Muscle weakness
- Joint swelling
To conclude, the symptoms in early stages combined with a hindsight reflection of how they may have occurred including what events took place leading up to the evidence of infection will be your best chance at avoidance of lasting damage.
Understanding Lyme Disease: Treatments
Of course, upon finding anything that may seem to be linked with a tick bite or Lyme disease you should see medical attention as soon as possible. Again, the earlier you catch the disseminating bacteria, the better your chances at mitigating serious complications with basic treatments.
The only proven cure for this disease is a course of antibiotics. The length of said treatment may vary due to the development of the disease, ranging from 10 days to 4 weeks, all dependant on whether the spread is more local or has reached further throughout the body.
Early stage of Lyme disease will require a shorter treatment time, typically of 10 to 14 days, mainly using oral antibiotics. For more severe symptoms, intravenous antibiotics will be utilised, but only if necessary due to the side effects that may arrive when doing so.
One pivotal factor preventing early stage treatment in this manner is the weakening in the immune system which may lead to further, unrelated illness. So although very effective, it won’t be the blanket treatment for all.
Antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease can vary, again this is a prudential move on doctors’ behalf to ensure that no further complications arrive.
Common treatments are:
All are standard treatments, but Amoxicillin and Cefuroxime can be used safely by women who are breastfeeding. All treatments should be regulated through a doctors analysis, to ensure the treatment correlates with symptoms found.
When it comes to the treatment for Post Lyme disease syndrome however, the lines become blurred. As the infection and its bacterium are no longer present, the same treatment can not be supplied. It then requires a new diagnosis, one which may be much more arduous in finding, as well as matching it with a suitable medicine.
Therefore finding and treating the disease as early as humanly possible is of the utmost importance for your long-term well-being.
Understanding Lyme Disease: Transmission
Having a strong understanding of lyme disease, including how the actual illness is transmitted, will go further in reducing the risk of contracting the disease than nearly anything else.
Most ticks hunt their prey using a method known as ‘questing’. Using senses of heat perception, detection of odours as well as even vibrations, these patient arthropods will camp on the edges of vegetation, limbs reaching out, just waiting to hitch a ride. This technique is used mainly due to them being unable to use maneuvers favoured by other small vampiric creatures, such as jumping or flying.
Once they are on, they will get to work on feeding. The tick will make a small incision, insert its feeding tube and begin feeding. This can range from minutes to hours.
The common tick will move from host to host in search of sustenance, which is where the spread of bacteria originates. If a host is carrying the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacterium, all following host will be subjected to this bacteria. This is because once the tick begins feeding, the ticks saliva will enter the small wound, allowing bacteria freedom to travel across into the bloodstream of the current hosting animal.
The ticks life cycle is that of around three years. It will progress from Larva, Nymph then to full adult size. Lyme disease may be present at any one stage of the life cycle, all depending on the prior feeding history of the tick.
The small problem with transmission with a tick in early life, for any host, would be that of size. If even knowing of the ticks existence on the cutaneous level hasn’t been a problem, effectively removing it can be a task for even for the most aspiring surgeon.
Knowing the correct procedure for tick removal could not be more important, a feeding tick may have caused little to no damage at the point of discovery, so ensuring you do not magnify any of its effects is essential.
Preventing Lyme Disease: Proper Tick Removal
Unfortunately these things happen, but luckily, you have found the transylvanic leech.
What do you do next?
There are just a few key points to remember when doing this procedure. Once memorising the key facts the rest is left in your steady hands, for careful removal.
As to not stretch out the imaginary process too far to avoid hypochondriacal symptoms whilst reading, I will break it down into 5 key stages:
- Do not touch the tick using your hands or any part of your body for that matter, prevent any further potential transmission at any cost
- Using fine tweezers, take hold of the tick at the base of the skin, next to the mouth/feeding tube, then remove gently without torsion to avoid breaking the feeding tube and leaving the pathogens behind. (Do not squeeze the tick at all costs to avoid an injection of the ticks contents)
- Remove tick and place in tight containment for a potential later analysis.
- Check for any further ticks
- Wash all equipment, bite area and hands use hot soapy water.
Taking extra caution through each step is your best bet to avoid any potential transmittal of harmful pathogens.
Tick Bite Prevention
This disease is not a contagious airborne outbreak that must be feared in all corners of the globe. It’s only promotor are that of ticks, being only by mere accident and chance.
Understanding of how it is transmitted is the greatest chance you have at avoiding this disease.
Precautionary measures will always be your best answer to not having anything to do with Lyme disease.
Here are the main meditations widely recommended:
- Avoid continuous walking through dense vegetation and high grass areas, stick to clear paths
- Wear suitable clothing for any such walk, trying to utilise pants and long sleeve shirts over anything exposing skin
- Use repellent when deemed necessary *(Link below to best repellents)
- Be vigilant for both bites and symptoms, especially in times after walks through the natural habitat of the tick
Defence against Dracula would be easier to tell you the truth, but just a small amount of knowledge of this potential enemy can go a long way to prevent yourself and those around you from any serious complications.
All in all? As ugly as it is, lyme disease is truthfully an easy enough disease to treat (as well as easy to prevent), if done with great sincerity and dedication.