Lyme Disease Symptoms and Treatment
Lyme Disease: Be Aware, Be Smart, Be Safe
Anyone who spends time outdoors needs to know a little something about ticks. If you find one of the unwelcome drifters hitching a ride on you, it may be tempting to pull it off in disgust and forget it. That would be a mistake.
Ticks can carry diseases that are life-threatening to humans, so you need to know what to be alert for if you have been bitten. The disease that has been getting the most attention over the last few years is Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted through the deer tick. Fortunately, the tick must be attached for at least 36 hours before it can begin to infect a human, so you have time to find and remove it before any damage is done.
Even if you remove the tick quickly, you should still be aware of the following signs that could indicate a Lyme disease infection:
- A circular red rash may appear as much as a month after the bite
- You may have stiffness, fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms
- As the infection worsens you may have pain in the arms and legs, particularly the knees, along with weakness and swelling
- In advanced cases there may be neurological effects such as memory impairment, and tingling in the hands and feet
Signs of this disease may appear months or even years after the original infection, so even if mild symptoms disappear on their own you should still seek medical attention. The disease is not gone, it has simply retreated.
Doctors most often diagnose Lyme disease from what they see and what you tell them. If necessary, there is a blood test that can be conducted. The treatment will depend on the stage that the infection has reached, but will chiefly consist of antibiotics.
Although it is generally accepted that there is no cure for Lyme disease, antibiotics will usually stop the progression of the illness, and the body will often complete the healing process over time. You will need oral antibiotics for early stages, while more advanced infections may also require anti-inflammatory drugs or intravenous antibiotics.
The best defense against Lyme disease is prevention. If you are going to be outdoors, especially around tall grass or trees, wear tick repellent. Shower and check your skin when you get home to find and remove the pests before they can cause harm, and remember the indications of infection to look for, just in case. Prevention and vigilance are your best weapons against this bacterial threat.