I live in Vermont. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), my state is one of 14 located in the Northeast and Midwest where 95% of Lyme disease cases were confirmed in 2015. Most who live in these states are familiar with the notion that Lyme disease is spread from an infected deer to humans through a tick bite.
The “blacklegged” tick is on the move, expanding westward into the southern and western U.S. and into Canada bringing with it the possibility of infection. For many people, this is a new threat to their summer outdoor enjoyment.
Key Medical Terms: Lyme disease (an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria); arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat); Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis); meningitis (inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord); encephalopathy (brain disease); erythema migrans (circular red rash)
What Exactly is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. The bacteria are transmitted to humans through a bite from a blacklegged tick (deer tick), which became infected from feeding on deer or mice. The bacteria eventually find their way into the bloodstream. Only a minority of blacklegged tick bites lead to Lyme disease. Symptoms can occur anywhere from 3 to 30 days after the bite or appear months later depending on the stage of the infection. Ticks must be attached for 36 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, heart, and the nervous system, as demonstrated in the three stages of Lyme infection.
Three Stages of Lyme Infection
Stage 1 Early localized Lyme disease starts one to two weeks after the tick bite. The bacteria are localized.
- A circular, red rash (erythema migrans) appears at the site of the bite (not always present).
Stage 2 Early disseminated Lyme disease can occur days, weeks or months after the tick bite. In early disseminated Lyme disease, the bacteria have spread throughout the body. Symptoms include:
- · flu-like symptoms – chills, fever, fatigue, headache, and joint pain
- · arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), heart palpitations, and chest pain
- · Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis)
- · meningitis (inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord)
- · swelling and painful joints
Stage 3 Late disseminated Lyme disease occurs when the infection wasn’t treated during stages 1 or 2 of the disease and can occur weeks, months, or years after the tick bite. The bacteria have spread throughout the body. Symptoms include:
- · arthritis
- · severe headaches
- · pain or swelling in the knees, shoulders, elbows, and other large joints
- · arrhythmias
- · encephalopathy (brain disease)
- · short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating
- · problems following conversations
- · numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
- · mood, sleep, memory, and speech may be affected
Lyme disease is a medical term, an eponym named after Lyme Connecticut. It was first recognized in 1975 after researchers investigated why unusually large numbers of children were being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in and around Lyme and two neighboring towns. Since then, there has been a steady increase in the number of reported cases in the US. Recent CDC studies suggest 300,000 people per year are diagnosed with the disease.
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Writing this blog post has increased my awareness of Lyme disease and it has reminded me to take necessary precautions to avoid becoming infected. I hope reading this blog post has done the same for you and that you can enjoy the out of doors confident that you can avoid a diagnosis of Lyme disease in your future.
References are the embedded links within the article and Exploring Medical Language 10th Edition
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