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Lyme Disease: Borreliosis Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

Lyme Disease (a. k. a: Lyme Borreliosis) is a tick-borne illness characterised by a typical skin rash, fever, and fatigue. If not treated, it may lead to severe complications related to the nervous system, joints and the heart. If detected at an early stage, Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics. It is rare in India; however, it affects around 300,000 people in the US and 65,000 in Europe in a year.

Lyme disease

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infection, most commonly caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted from the bite of an infected black-legged tick or deer tick to humans. The tick gets infected after feeding on infected mice or deer. It usually takes 36 to 48 hours for the tick after biting to transmit the infection.

What are the Causes of Lyme Disease?

The cause of Lyme disease is primarily caused due to the following bacterial infections. Borrelia burgdorferi and Borreliamayonii are the two common bacteria that are responsible for causing Lyme disease in the USA, through a bite of an infected black-legged tick or deer tick. The ticks are brown and of a poppy seed size at young age, which makes them difficult to identify.

For the disease to be transmitted, an infected tick must bite a healthy human. The tick paves its way through the bitten area into the skin and eventually enters the bloodstream.

After entering into the blood, it may take 36 to 48 hours for transmitting the infection. This infection affects different areas of the body. Removing the tick from the body, as early as possible can prevent infection.

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The incubation period (period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) for Lyme disease is 3 to 10 days. The symptoms of Lyme disease occur in three stages, which include:

Stage 1- Early Localized Disease:

This phase occurs when the infection has not yet spread throughout the body. It occurs three to thirty-two days after the tick bite.

The classic symptom of Lyme disease is a bull’s- eye rash (also referred to as erythema migrans). This rash will be tender to touch, painless, and forms a red spot in the middle and a clear zone around it, which disappears after four weeks.

Stage 2- Early Disseminated Lyme Disease:

It occurs several weeks after the bite of a tick. During this stage, the bacteria spread in the body and the affected person shows flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Vision changes

Stage 3- Late Disseminated Lyme Disease:

It occurs after the months and years of the tick bite. It occurs when stage 1 and stage 2 is not treated. The symptoms include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Arthritis in one or more joints
  • Encephalopathy (brain disorder)
  • Mental fogginess
  • Numbness in limbs
  • Disturbances in heart rhythm

What are the Risk Factors of Lyme Disease?

The risk factors for Lyme disease include:

Spending a Lot of Time in Woody and Grassy Areas: The deer ticks are more prevalent in the US. Children spending time playing outdoor games and the adults working outside have an increased risk of acquiring Lyme disease.

The deer ticks primarily feed on mouse and rodents in the first two stages. Adult deer ticks feed on white-tailed deer.

Exposed Skin: Ticks can attach easily to the exposed skin and cause an infection. Wearing full-sleeved shirts and long pants can protect children and adults from the tick bite.

The pets also should be protected from ticks by keeping away from weeds, grasses and trees.

Removing Ticks Properly: If a tick remains on the skin for 36 to 48 hours, the bacteria can enter into the bloodstream from a tick bite. Removing tick within two days can lower the risk of Lyme disease.

What are the Complications of Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, if left untreated, can cause:

  • Irregularities of heart rhythm
  • Impaired memory (cognitive defect)
  • Facial palsy and neuropathy (neurological symptoms)
  • Lyme arthritis (chronic joint inflammation, especially knee)

How to Diagnose Lyme Disease?

The diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on health history and a physical exam. When a person is infected through a tick bite, he/ she develop antibodies against the Borrelia infection within a few weeks. Certain special blood tests help in detecting these antibodies in blood. These are:

ELISA: An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test is used detect antibodies to B. burgdorferi. This test can give false-positive results also. It is not a sole test for diagnosis; other methods are also involved.

Western-Blot: It detects antibodies to several proteins of B. burgdorferi. This test is carried out to confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease after a positive ELISA test.

PCR: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to check and evaluate the infection in patient with persistent Lyme arthritis.

What is the Treatment for Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease can be treated well at an early stage. Medications used for the treatment include:

Oral Antibiotics: It is a standard treatment for early stages of the disease. A course of 14 to 21 days is usually recommended. Oral antibiotics include doxycycline for children above eight years and adults, cefuroxime and amoxicillin for children, adults, pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Intravenous Antibiotics: If the infection has spread to the brain, these antibiotics are prescribed and the course of taking these lasts for around 14 to 28 days.

Bismacine (chromacin): It is an injectable compound that contains high levels of bismuth which helps treating treat Lyme disease.

What are the Preventive Methods for Lyme Disease?

The methods of prevention for avoiding ticks from biting and causing Lyme disease are as follows:

  1. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and hats to cover body
  2. Using insect repellent with 20% high concentration of DEET
  3. Cleaning yard regularly
  4. Checking children, pets, elders and yourself for ticks
  5. Remove the tick from the infected area, as soon as possible using tweezers

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