It’s astounding – the number of people who have been infected with Lyme disease and the rate at which it’s spreading! It’s truly become a present-day epidemic.
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What’s Lyme Disease?
According to the CDC,
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.”
Lyme can be difficult to diagnose and treat because it hides and changes rapidly. It’s also difficult to destroy.
How Many People Have Lyme Disease?
In 2016, there were over 35,000 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease reported to the CDC. However, results from studies “suggest that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States is around 300,000.”
In 2015, 95% of confirmed Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Surrounding states also have confirmed cases, just not as high of numbers. Infected ticks can also be found in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.
Tick-Borne Illnesses Are on the Rise
Lyme disease is the most commonly known disease to be spread by ticks, but ticks can also carry other diseases. In fact, the CDC says that tick-borne illnesses have now tripled.
In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can also pass along over a dozen diseases including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bourbon Virus, Colorado Tick Fever, and Rickettsia Parkeri Rickettsiosis to name a few.
How is Lyme Disease Transmitted?
While ticks are known as the main culprit for spreading Lyme disease, it’s the black-legged deer tick which spreads the disease.
Ticks are “parasitic arachnids about the size of a poppy seed that feed off the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles.”
Ticks are at their peak typically from January through June. Tick season is also in the fall from the end of August through November. That only leaves a couple of months during the year when it’s not tick season.
Ticks are typically found in wooded areas, but they can also be found in tall grassy areas, or on animals. They cannot fly, but they can attach themselves to you as you walk by. They like to hang out on the tips of tall grasses, leaves or branches. Once they bite you, you might not realize it since their saliva has anesthetic properties.
After being out in a wooded area, it’s best to examine yourself to make sure you don’t see a tick. It’s also best to shower and tumble dry your clothes on high heat to kill any ticks that might be on them.
What Are Some Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
If you have been bitten by a tick, you may experience flu-like symptoms. You may also develop a red bulls-eye rash around the site of the bite.
Other early symptoms you may experience are:
- achy joints,
- swollen lymph nodes,
If you find out you’ve been bitten by a tick, time matters. The earlier you can get treatment, the better off you will be. Antibiotics given in the earliest stage (less than 36 hours after a bite) can help to clear the infection.
However, if the infection isn’t treated in the early stage and becomes chronic Lyme disease, it can be more difficult to treat. It also can be difficult to diagnose as so many different symptoms can point to Lyme.
There are different Lyme disease blood tests that can be performed in addition to the ELISA and Western-blot blood tests. The ELISA and Western-blog tests “are considered more reliable and accurate when performed at least a month after initial infection.”
Chronic Lyme Disease Symptoms and Phases
According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, if Lyme disease is left untreated,
the bacterium travels through the bloodstream, establishes itself in various body tissues, and can cause a number of symptoms, some of which are severe. Lyme disease manifests itself as a multisystem inflammatory disease that affects the skin in its early, localized stage, and spreads to the joints, nervous system and, to a lesser extent, other organ systems in its later, disseminated stages.”
Symptoms for chronic Lyme disease can be misread because they are so varied. They can include so many things such as:
- extreme fatigue,
- joint and muscle pain,
- a stiff aching neck,
- hormone irregularities,
- difficulty sleeping,
- mood swings,
- tingling or numbness,
- brain fog,
- painful arthritis,
- neurological disorders,
- cardiac abnormalities
With all of the different symptoms, people can often be misdiagnosed.
The bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, Borrelia Burgdorferi, “has the potential to transform into 3 different phases” as time goes on:
- The spirochete phase – the bacterium burrows deep into tissues, joints, and organs
- The cell wall deficient phase – it easily slips into your blood
- The cyst phase – the Borrelia bacteria turns into cysts so it can withstand potential treatments
Is There Treatment for Lyme Disease?
As mentioned above, if you catch Lyme disease very early, you should be able to treat it with antibiotics.
However, if you don’t notice right away that you have been bitten (as only 25-50% of people get a rash), symptoms can set in and treating Lyme disease as it progresses can be more complicated.
It is important to treat Lyme disease correctly as there can also be co-infections associated with it.
If you suspect you have Lyme disease, please see a doctor who is qualified to treat it before your symptoms become severe. Lyme disease can be tricky, but with proper treatment, you can begin to regain your life.
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