Lyme disease was discovered in 1975 after large numbers of children were diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in Lyme, Connecticut and two neighboring communities. Researchers discovered that deer ticks infected with Borrelia burgdoferi were the cause of this arthritis outbreak.
A red rash, and flu-like symptoms are usually the first indicators of Lyme disease. Lyme disease can also cause arthritis, heart problems and other medical issues.
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. If people are not treated for Lyme disease, or inadequately treated they may develop arthritis that can last for months or even years.
Some doctors treat an active Lyme infection with many different antibiotics for months or years. Not all doctors agree with this approach. They question the benefit of this therapy and point to the possibility that drug-resistant strains of bacteria may develop as a result of the extensive use of antibiotics.
The Borrelia bacteria may spread through the patient's blood stream within days of the initial infection. After several months, the patient may develop chronic symptoms in various parts of the body. Five percent of untreated patients develop neurological symptoms. These patients suffer from shooting paints, tingling and numbness in the hands and/or feet. These same patients may suffer cognitive difficulties, such as short-term memory problems and trouble with concentration.
The arthritis caused by Lyme disease most often affects the knees. Some people may develop arthritis in other joints such as the elbows, wrists, hips, shoulders, and ankles. The pain caused by Lyme arthritis is usually mild to moderate and involves joint swelling. Bakers cysts may form in the knees and may actually rupture. Joint erosion can occur in some patients.
Lyme disease is diagnosed with laboratory testing. There are blood tests used which measure specific antibodies. It is important to note that these tests may be negative soon after infection because the body has not yet produced the antibodies.
Lyme disease us usually treated with doxcycline in adults and amoxicillin in children. The treatment typically lasts for 10 to 28 days.
In Canada, Lyme has expanded from Ontario. It now includes areas of southern Quebec, Manitoba, northern Ontario, parts of the Prairie provinces, and British Columbia.
In the U.S., Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases. Lyme disease has been reported in 49 of the 50 states.
What can you do to protect yourself form Lyme disease? Remove an attached tick as soon as you see it. If you are going out into the woods or park where ticks may be prevalent, wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants tucked into your socks or boots, and a hat. If you wear light colored clothes, you will may be able to see the tick before it attaches to your skin. Stay on cleared trails if possible, and use insect repellent containing DEET. Avoid sitting on the ground or on stone walls, and always do a full-body tick check at the end of the day.
I live in the Midwest in a very rural area. Controlling the deer population has become important for more than one reason. There are so many deer in our area now, that car/deer accidents are common. These accidents can be serious, and even result in death.
Deer carry the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, as do rodents and other small mammals. Controlling and reducing the deer population helps control he spread of Lyme disease.
I work with a woman who was infected with Lyme disease last summer. She woke up one morning so sore and stiff that she could barely get out of bed. After a month of strong antibiotics she was doing well. I don't know what would have happened to her without quick, effective treatment.
Summer is here, and the ticks are out there. Please do what you can to protect yourself from this infectious disease. Inform your friends and family about preventative measures, and be sure to treat your pets with a product that repels and/or kills ticks. Staying safe takes a little extra effort, but avoiding ticks is a very good thing. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Published On: June 13, 2011