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What is Lyme disease?
by Aleksandr Kavokin, MD, PhD
Lyme Disease. What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease. A spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, a kind of germ, is the cause. Deer ticks or western black-legged ticks bite people and transmit the bacterium to humans. These ticks are about the size of sesame seeds. Lyme disease mostly happens in rural and suburban regions. Lyme disease is found in United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.
The symptoms of Lyme disease include: Fever Headache Fatigue Chills Stiff neck Muscle aches Joint pain Skin rash named erythema migrans, which appears from week to month after a tick bite. This rash usually starts at the site of the tick bite. Originally it is a small red spot that grow larger. The center fade, which looks like a "bull's eye" or ring. Some people have just many red spots instead. The rash burns and itches often. However some people do not feel it.
Later infection spreads to joints, the heart, and nervous system. Affected heart beats irregularly or slowly. Bell's palsy (a sort of face droop) means the nervous system damage. If not treated, Lyme disease causes arthritis (joints inflammation) and more nervous system problems. Usually, only one large joint, knee for example, swells and hurts. Sometimes more than one joint becomes inflamed. Later, Lyme disease causes trouble concentrating, memory loss, muscle weakness, tingling and numbness.
How to find out if you have Lyme disease?
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. He usually diagnoses Lyme disease if you have symptoms and physical findings (especially specific rash). The possibility of infected tick bites is important in the consideration. Lab tests are helpful mostly in the later stages of disease. Early they may give false results. People who have been sick with Lyme disease for less than a month may have negative blood test, because they still have to develop antibodies to the disease. Also, in early Lyme disease, patients who take antibiotics for other reasons may never develop a positive Lyme disease test. Blood test is almost always positive in patients who sick for over month without antibiotics.
Swelled joints or nervous system symptoms may require special tests. Joint fluid or spine fluid aspiration helps to recognize the condition.
How is Lyme disease treated?
Most cases of Lyme disease are treated with several weeks of antibiotics. Early Lyme disease requires 14 to 30 days of antibiotics. Antibiotics usually are given by mouth. If the nervous system is involved, antibiotics may need to be given intravenously. Take all the drugs, which your doctor prescribed, according to instruction. To prevent spreading the infection to joints, heart and nervous system do not stop taking the medicine. Call your doctor and discuss if you have some problems with the drug. Blood tests are not very useful to check your treatment. Sometime Lyme disease gives positive tests even after a moth of treatment. In advanced Lyme disease, symptoms may improve, but do not disappear completely. If symptoms persist or worsen after treatment, contact your doctor.
How to prevent Lyme disease?
The best way is to avoid tick bites. Clothing in the woods area, long-sleeved shirt and pants instead of shorts are good protection. An insect repellent containing permethrin or similar staff could be used. Follow instructions for application because the repellents may also cause skin irritation. After walking outdoors, check your skin body and scalp for ticks and rashes. Check your pets. Remove ticks promptly form you cloth. Also consider landscaping and pest control in you area. The ticks may transmit other tick-borne diseases too.
If you find a tick on your skin, use tweezers, grasp the tick close to your skin. Pull steady, do not squeeze or twist the tick. If any parts stay in your skin, carefully remove them as if a splinter. Then put some antiseptic ointment. Old methods of putting kerosene, gasoline on the tick were not proved to work well. After removing the tick, check your skin over the next month. In case of a rash, go to your doctor and tell about the bite. Usually people, who are bitten by a tick, but do not feel sick or get a rash, do not need antibiotics. If you are unsure, call your doctor at the time of bite. Some other diseases, spread by ticks, may require additional actions and treatments. http://www.rdoctor.com http://www.nih.gov http://www.cdc.gov Infection
Aleksandr Kavokin, MD, PhD may be contacted at http://www.kavokin.com firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to view more of their articles.
Aleksandr received his MD from Russian State Medical University. Later he did his PhD in Immunology and Allergy. He did research in Cancer Biology at Medical University of South Carolina, 5 years of research in Cardiology at Yale University School of Medicine, had internship in General Surgery at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia.
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