Lyme Disease – Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Lyme disease is becoming an increasingly prolific health condition. It is also commonly misdiagnosed, leaving many untreated in the early stages. If not properly diagnosed in the acute stage, and treated with antibiotics quickly, a debilitating chronic condition can manifest.

Ticks can transmit a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites through a bite. Once these pathogens are in your bloodstream all sorts of symptoms can appear. While not all ticks will make you sick, the top offenders are the deer tick, the Lone Star tick, and the wood tick (also known as the Colorado Rocky Mountain tick). The deer tick transmits Lyme disease from animals and birds to humans.

What are the Signs that You Might have Lyme Disease?

1. The first sign is finding an engorged tick on your body. It is wise to do a complete body check every time you have been in the woods or tall grass. These tiny insects will generally find a warm, dark place to set up shop. This includes between toes, armpits, belly buttons, behind the ears, etc. Be vigilant in searching for ticks.

If you find a tick, remove it by the head with tweezers and take it to your public health official for testing. Here is a link to the CDC guideline for tick removal.

2. The next sign is a bull’s eye rash. That is a red circular rash with a small white center. Not every deer tick bite results in a rash. If you do see a rash, take a picture of it and then get to your doctor or walk-in clinic immediately before the rash fades.

3. If you have been infected, certain symptoms may start to appear within 12 hours up to 2 weeks later. Not everyone has the same symptoms. Here is a list of what to look out for.

  • Feeling like you have the flu
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Joint swelling and muscle pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes anywhere in the body
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Bell’s palsy – a paralysis of one side of the face

What to Do If You Suspect Lyme Disease

As mentioned before, seek advice from a medical professional. He or she will likely want to draw blood for testing. Unfortunately, current blood test results for Lyme Disease are only 50% accurate. Explain, in detail, all of your signs and symptoms to the doctor. Be proactive by asking that you be placed on a 28 day round of antibiotics until the test results come back. (Take the full dose). The Lyme spirochete generally cycles every 28 days, sitting dormant or hiding in-between.

While many of us do not like the idea of taking antibiotics, this really is the best known antidote to treating early Lyme disease to date. Research is still being done to find other ways to treat the disease. If you don’t treat you could be setting yourself up for a lifetime of health issues.

Conclusion

Lyme Disease is not the only tick-borne illness, but it is one of the most common. The trick is to recognize the signs and symptoms, seek medical advice, and treat early. Also, take preventative measures to protect yourself while outdoors.

For information on a variety of tick transmitted pathogens, check out the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP) website.