When it comes to Lyme disease, it seems there are more questions than answers. Do all ticks carry the disease? How will I know if I have it? Will I need an antibiotic? Let Swetech Family Medicine calm your fears, answer your questions, and get you healthy.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a common vector-borne illness. In this case, the vectors are blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) that transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium that can lead to a host of symptoms that appear between three and 30 days after the bite:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin rash (erythema migrans)
The erythema migrans – the bullseye rash – is particularly telling. It begins at the site of the bite about one week later and expands gradually over a period of several days. The rash may feel warm to the touch but typically is not painful or itchy.
Testing and Treatment for Lyme Disease
The early symptoms listed above, along with the knowledge that you have been exposed to ticks, are sometimes sufficient for diagnosing Lyme disease. Follow-up labs are generally in order. Blood tests detect the presence of the antibodies your body makes in response to infection. Testing too soon may result in a false negative reading, and an infection from some other disease can result in a false positive reading.
Most cases of this disease are treated with antibiotics, and patients treated in the early stages of the disease usually recover quickly. Antibiotics are typically administered orally, but some patients, depending on age, medical history, and underlying health conditions, may require intravenous treatment.
Complications of Lyme Disease
If Lyme disease is left untreated, serious symptoms may emerge:
- Facial palsy or paralysis
- Numbness in the hands or feet
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- More rashes
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis)
- Severe joint pain (particularly the knees)
- Nerve pain
- Inflammation of the brain or spinal cord
Most patients treated with antibiotics recover completely, but others may experience symptoms that last for months, and still others may not ever fully recover. Post-treatment or chronic Lyme disease, requires long-term treatment. It is unclear if the chronic condition is the result of an ongoing infection or because of damage to tissues and the immune system during the initial infection.
Preventing Lyme Disease
When it comes to Lyme disease, prevention is the best medicine. And that takes vigilance and awareness:
- Use trails and avoid high grass and dense forests.
- Wear closed shoes and long-sleeve shirts. Tuck pants into socks.
- Wear light-colored clothing so you can see ticks more easily.
- Use an insect repellent. Treat clothing and gear with tick repellent.
- Shower and shampoo after being outdoors.
- Remove ticks promptly.
Do not use matches or petroleum jelly to get rid of the tick. The CDC recommends using tweezers:
- Grasp the tick close to your skin’s surface.
- Remove by pulling upward with steady, even pressure.
- Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol and soap and water.
- Dispose of the tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag, or flushing it down the toilet.
Treatment for Lyme Disease in Clinton Township, Michigan
If you have been bitten by a tick, contact Swetech Medical Center in Clinton Township. Our doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) will evaluate your symptoms and determine the next best steps.
If you have Lyme disease, we can help you develop a nutrition plan and schedule whole body wellness visits to get and keep you healthy.
Early treatment is important. Contact us today.