Lyme disease, caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, is a type of bacterial infection that is spread through the bite of a black-legged tick. The ticks usually carry Lyme disease after biting a deer or mice and therefore can bite a person and pass the disease on to them. It can be found throughout the world, though it is more common in some areas than others.
Causes of Lyme Disease
As mentioned previously, Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which is carried by blacklegged ticks. If you are bitten by an infected tick, you have a good chance of getting the disease. It was first reported in 1975 in a town called Old Lyme, in Connecticut. Since then, most of the Lyme disease infestations have been found in Northeastern states including Virginia and Maine, North central states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and on the West Coast primarily in northern California. There are three stages of Lyme disease; early localized Lyme disease, early disseminated Lyme disease, and late disseminated Lyme disease. Risk factors for getting bit by the blacklegged tick and getting Lyme disease are doing outdoor activities like hiking or gardening, having a pet that goes outdoors and might carry the ticks home, and frequently walking in high grasses.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
The signs and symptoms of stage 1 of the disease typically start about a week after infection. These include itching throughout the entire body, chills, fever, ill feeling, headache, light-headedness, muscle pain, and a stiff neck. The symptoms may be gradual or come and go. If Lyme disease is untreated, it can also spread to other parts of the body including the joints, brain, or heart. In stage 2, symptoms include weakness or paralysis in the face, muscle pain or swelling in the joints, and heart palpitations or other heart issues. Symptoms of stage 3 Lyme disease include abnormal muscle movement, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling, and speech problems.
Diagnosing and Treating Lyme Disease
To diagnose Lyme disease, your doctor will first perform a blood test that checks for antibodies of the bacteria that causes the disease. If the disease has progressed past stage 1, your doctor may perform other tests such as an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, spinal tap, or an MRI of the brain. The first course of treatment for Lyme disease is a 2-4 week course of antibiotics. Pain medications are also given, including ibuprofen, to treat and relieve joint stiffness and discomfort.