Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, is generally transmitted by deer ticks (Ixodes ticks) and black-legged ticks, which are found on the West Coast. Lyme disease can affect people of all ages; however, children, the elderly and those who spend time participating in outdoor activities, such as hunters, park rangers and firefighters, have a greater risk of exposure to ticks. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that approximately 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. Unfortunately, the symptoms of the disease often mimic other diseases. People with Lyme disease are often misdiagnosed with illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and a variety of psychiatric illnesses. It is essential that you understand the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and seek treatment as soon as you suspect you may have this illness.
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
It is important to note that only a minority of tick bites will lead to Lyme disease and longer attachment of the tick to your skin, the greater the risk of you getting the disease. If the tick is attached for less than 36-48 hours, Lyme disease is unlikely. The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease vary depending on the length of infection. Signs and symptoms typically include:
When first bitten, the site of the bite looks like a mosquito bite; however, once the tick is removed the bump will go away after a few days. This is a normal reaction and does not indicate Lyme disease. However, within a month or shortly after you notice the following signs and symptoms, seek medical attention:
Early Signs and Symptoms
- Rash which generally occurs in 3-30 days after being bitten by an infected tick
- Neck stiffness
- Swollen lymph nodes
Later Signs and Symptoms
If the early signs and symptoms are not treated, new symptoms of Lyme disease may appear in the following weeks or months. These signs often include:
- Erythema migrans which is a rash that may appear on areas of your body outside of the bite area
- Joint pain which can be severe and includes swelling, typically affecting the knees, but it can move from one joint to another.
- Neurological problems can develop in the following weeks, months or even years after being infected. Lyme disease may lead to the development of meningitis, which affects the membranes surrounding your brain, Bell’s palsy (temporary paralysis on one side of the face), weakness or numbness in limbs and/or impaired muscle movement.
- Several weeks after being infected, some people may develop eye inflammation, heart problems, severe fatigue and/or liver inflammation.
The best treatment for Lyme disease is prevention. The best way to prevent the risk of Lyme disease is to avoid wooded areas and areas with high grass. When you are in these types of areas, be sure to wear long pants that are tucked into shoes or your socks, a long-sleeve shirt and shoes. When possible, stay on trails and avoid walking through areas with high risks of tick infestations. Always keep pets on a leash and be sure to carefully inspect their skin should after being outside, especially if they were in wooded areas.
If you suspect you may have been bitten by a tick, remove the tick immediately. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, seek medical attention immediately. If you have concerns about possibly having signs of Lyme disease, visit PrimeCare Urgent Care.