Lyme Disease: What It Is, and How to Protect Yourself

Some people who live with Lyme disease go without a proper medical diagnosis for months or even years. Many have long-lasting symptoms.

Lyme disease is a disease due to bacteria In the US, deer ticks, aka black-legged ticks, are transmitted to humans through the bites of certain species of ticks (Ixodes scapularis or Ixodes pacificus). And while it has been under-diagnosed or misunderstood by the medical community, experts are warning the insects are a growing problem across America.

Traditionally, Lyme disease was regarded as a problem in the wild Northeast region of the Americas. Last year, however, reports began to show that Lyme disease is a growing problem In most parts of the country, including California and even urban areas.

An emergency medicine physician at Stanford Health Care and a medical specialist in the wild, Dr. James Marvel has researched the factors contributing to the spread of Lyme disease in the US. In an interview with CNET, he said that data over the past few decades shows that Lyme disease has “bloomed” in several US states and counties, especially in the Northeast.

“There is some suspicion that climate variables are contributing to this, especially in the context of global warming,” so the environment may be more conducive to ticks, Marvel said. However, ticks have a life cycle of two years, he said, which makes it difficult to track.

“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘A hot day means there are going to be more ticks,'” he explained.

Other factors, such as wood, people expanding construction in tick-filled environments, may also contribute to the increase in the incidence of Lyme disease, Marvel said. Dr. Andres Brann, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Missouri Health Care, said in a 2021 CNET interview that the pandemic has moved more people outdoors and involved them in activities that would expose them to tick bites, such as that hiking.

“You’re seeing a shift toward going outside to be socially distant,” Bran said.

If caught early, Lyme disease can be treated, but failing to receive a proper diagnosis and timely treatment can lead to permanent disease. support groups and online forum full of people who suffer from Lyme disease, and International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society Dedicated to improving the medical and scientific communities’ understanding of Lyme disease – including treatments for people who are suffering.

Here’s what to know about Lyme disease, and how to protect yourself.

Tick ​​Safety 101

Being outside increases your risk of being exposed to all aspects of nature, including ticks. But if you live in a wooded area or are out in nature a lot, and especially if you live in a States where Lyme disease is more commonIt is important to protect yourself from tick bites.

While Lyme disease can affect anyone at any age, it may be more common. children aged 5 to 14 and adults age 45 to 64, according to the ILADS.

a family walking in the woods

Ticks are most active in the spring and summer months.

ryanjellen / goto

“Ticks don’t fly or jump like fleas or anything,” Marvel says. “The only way they can reach humans is through direct contact.” They do this by waiting on a blade of grass, a long reed or something similar, and then latch on when someone brushes against them.

Tick ​​exposure can happen at any time, but ticks are most active in spring and summer, or April through September. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, To check yourself for ticks at the end of a day spent outside, CDC recommended Pay attention to these places on your body: under your arms, your ears, your belly button, between your legs, your hair, your waist, and behind your knees. The CDC says you should also inspect your pets and gear, as ticks can get into your home by climbing on pets, backpacks, or clothing.

To stay out of reach of ticks, avoid areas with tall grass or brush, stick to the center of trails, and wear clothing that covers your skin as much as possible. you can also treat your clothes with permethrin, a pesticide, or use insect repellent. Bran says to apply repellent every four to six hours, and find one that has a 30 to 35% concentration. DEET, They say that sprays with low concentrations of DEET work, but not as well. Bran also advises against mixtures of sunscreen and insect repellent because they are not as effective.

“You should apply your sunscreen before the repellent, and then use whatever product you have available as repellent,” he says.

read more, It is tick season. This easy trick removes them fast, no tweezers needed

What to do if you get a tick

Anywhere from less than 1%, depending on the region more than 50% ticks Carry Lyme disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. If you find a tick on your body, you should remove it. The ILADS recommends contacting your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a black-legged tick (more on that below) before you have symptoms of Lyme disease.

According to Bran, Lyme infection can be prevented if a tick bites you within 72 hours of starting treatment.

Marvel says the best way to remove a tick is to use tweezers and “grab the tick” as close to the base as possible, which is close to the tick’s head, then firmly “to the outside with gentle traction.” Drag to the side.” (Expect your skin to make a “tent”)

a small black tick in the palm of the hand

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease.

Judita Juknelle / EyeEm / Getty

ILADS Recommends Saving ticks in a container with a lid or ziplock bag. This allows you to send it for testing or get confirmation by your doctor.

How long does an infected tick need to be attached to pass on Lyme disease? Expert advice varies (the CDC says 36 to 48 hours is typically the wanted for infection, while the ILADS says some cases can develop into: twenty four hours,

But the sooner you identify and remove the tick, the better.

read more, Tick ​​season is back, and that’s bad news for your pet. What to do

symptoms of lyme disease

When infected with a Lyme disease-carrying tick, people have flulike and non-specific symptoms, including headache, muscle aches, fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches, Bran says.

If left untreated, can cause Lyme disease neurological problems Such as memory loss, musculoskeletal and peripheral nerve pain.

Many patients — as much as 80%, per CDC A rash will develop about three to 30 days after the infected tick bite. erythema migraine rash According to the ILADS, the one associated with Lyme disease is popularly described as bull’s-eye, with a red infected circle that spreads, although less than 20% of Lyme rashes actually look like a bull’s-eye. Huh. Photos of rashes in other shapes and forms can also be found on the CDC lyme disease rash Page.

It is important to note that a different bacteria Carrying by black-legged ticks, a disease is caused by similar to lyme diseaseBut it does not cause a rash in most cases.

If you have that telltale rash, that’s considered a “home run” diagnosis, Bran said, and a single dose of the antibiotic doxycycline is used to treat the disease. “If you have a rash, you don’t need any expensive tests,” Bran said. “You need doxycycline.”

a curly-legged dark tick with a red body

Tick ​​ticks such as Ixodes ricinus or “castor bean” can also carry Lyme disease. According to the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, castor bean ticks are found in Europe, Russia, North Africa and Scandinavia.

© Santiago Urquijo / Getty

Testing may be needed to determine whether someone has Lyme disease, including a . also includes blood test Which detects antibodies to it. The problem with this, Marvel said, is that it can take some time for antibodies to show up in a blood test — which may also contribute to fewer cases of Lyme disease.

“Lyme disease as a whole is a difficult diagnosis,” Marvel said. “I think the more you get out of the original tick bite or potential exposure the more difficult it becomes.”

There is currently no vaccine available for Lyme disease. According to the CDC, the Lyme disease vaccine was on the market for a few years once it was discontinued by its manufacturer because “insufficient consumer demand,

Some vaccines for Lyme disease, including a vaccine from Yale researchers mRNA deploys technologyis being considered.

Biotech companies Valneva and Pfizer positive result declared From clinical trials on their vaccine in February.

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chronic lyme disease

Many cases of Lyme disease can be cured with a course of antibiotics. However, some people can develop permanent symptoms after a Lyme infection, including pain, fatigue, difficulty thinking, mental health issues, and other symptoms that interfere with daily life. CDC refers to illness that lasts more than six months after treatment Lyme disease syndrome after treatment, The agency says some experts believe the bacteria that cause Lyme disease may trigger an autoimmune response, resulting in symptoms that “go away well after infection.” is anything Research This suggests that the bacteria that cause Lyme disease can survive in the body after initial treatment.

according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, some patients have symptoms similar to those of PTLDS, but there is no record of Lyme infection; Sometimes it is referred to as chronic Lyme disease. However, the NIH says, the “lack of a clearly defined clinical definition” of CLD has prompted many experts in the field to avoid using that name altogether. But that doesn’t mean the experiences of people living with symptoms after Lyme disease aren’t real. study from 2013Symptoms of PTLDS developed in 36% of patients diagnosed with early-stage Lyme.

If you think you have Lyme disease but have not been diagnosed, the ILADS offers: provider search of specialists who treat the disease.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always consult with a physician or other qualified health provider with respect to any questions you may have about a medical condition or health purposes.

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