Lyme disease is an infectious, parasitic disease caused by a tick bite, usually from a deer or sheep tick. The bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi then gets into the bloodstream via the bite, where it causes illness.
There is an incubation period that can last up to a month before you develop the disease, or you could start having symptoms as little as two days later.
What are the initial symptoms of Lyme Disease?:
• A circular rash called erythema migrans, beginning at the site of the tick bite – this occurs in about 80 percent of sufferers
• Enlarged glands
• Stiff neck
• Sensitivity to light
• Muscle aches
• Fever and/or chills
If the initial symptoms are not treated promptly, the bacteria can spread around the body and cause medical problems such as heart palpitations, Bell’s palsy (a paralysis of the muscles of the face), meningitis and neurological problems leading to poor memory and concentration. Sixty percent of people with untreated lyme disease get arthritis as a result and may suffer from severe swelling and joint pains and reduced mobility. If you suspect you have lyme disease, seek medical advice immediately.
Treatment is with antibiotics and if they are given straight away, the person usually recovers completely without any lasting illness or disability.
How can I Prevent Tick Bites?:
Animals that carry ticks are more prevalent in wooded and farmed areas, so if you go walking, stick to organised nature trails and don’t go into heavy bush.
If you work in the farming industry, use tick control products on your sheep.
People who go deer hunting are at increased risk of getting tick bourne illness, so consider not hunting.
Use an insect repellent when you are outdoors, particularly in the summer months.
If you have a tick attached to you, remove it immediately with a pair of tweezers. Ticks who have been attached for less than 24 hours don’t usually cause lyme disease.
The CDC website.
Lyme Disease Action, UK.
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.