What you Need to Know about Lyme Disease
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness, most common in North America and Europe. It primarily affects the skin, joints and nervous system.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash that forms into a bull’s-eye (red outer ring with a clear area in the middle) and flu-like symptoms. Later symptoms may include joint pain and neurological problems. If not treated right away, neurological problems can occur weeks, months, or years after you’ve been bitten. Some neurological problems include meningitis, temporary paralysis on one side of your face, numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movements.
How do physicians diagnose Lyme disease?
Your doctor makes a diagnosis based on symptoms and physical exam findings in addition to laboratory tests. Shortly after an exposure, testing may not yet return positive. If you have concerns about Lyme testing, you should consult your doctor.
What are the treatments?
Early Lyme disease is treated most frequently with a course of oral antibiotics. Adults who have sustained a tick bite with an engorged tick in the past 24 hours should consult their doctor and inquire about single dose post-exposure antibiotic therapy. Intravenous antibiotics are often prescribed for the Lyme disease symptoms that involve the nervous system.
How can I prevent Lyme disease?
Minimizing your exposure to Lyme disease can occur by avoiding wooded, bushy areas with tall grass that is known to house deer ticks. If you cannot avoid such areas, wear long pants and sleeves, stay on trails, keep your pet on a leash and use insect repellants. Do your best to tick proof your yard by clearing brush and leaves, and keep woodpiles in sunny areas. Finally, check yourself, children and pets for ticks. If you find ticks, remove them as soon as you can by grasping the tick by the head or mouth with a pair of tweezers and remove carefully. Avoid crushing or squeezing the tick. Once removed, thoroughly clean the area.
If you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms listed above, please contact your primary care physician for further direction, testing, and treatment.