Lyme Disease is
contracted through a tick infected with the spirochete bacterium
Borrelia Burgdorferi. This bacterium is carried in small rodents
such as white footed mice and voles. Tick larve and nymphs from
the Ixodes Scapularis family attach themselves to these rodents and
engorge themselves. While they are attached, the bacterium
transfers from the rodent to the tick. The tick will go dormant in
the winter with the Borrelia Burgdorferi growing inside. In the
spring the tick comes out of dormancy and attaches itself to the nearest
host it can find - from deer to pets to humans. It takes about ten
hours of feeding before the bacterium transfers from the tick to the
host. This is why it is important to remove a tick as soon as you
discover it. Otherwise, you will be infected with Borrelia
Burgdorferi and will contract Lyme Disease if the tick is carrying this
bacterium. If the tick is engorged, it has probably been on you
long enough to transfer it to you.
A well known member of the
Ixodes Scapularis family is the deer tick. It is fairly easy to spot an
adult deer tick on you - but it can be almost impossible to locate a nymph.
The nymph is as small as the head of a pin and may resemble a tiny poppy seed on
your skin. Many people see what they think is a speck of dirt and wipe it
right off, never realizing they had a tick on them.
This is an adult deer tick. Remember, a
young tick is so small you probably won't even know it is on you.
One trick to removing a tick is to douse it with
regular Joy dish detergent. Usually the tick will back out within 90 seconds.
The Joy dish detergent also helps to clean the tick bite area. You might
have to put a second application on if the tick does not let go within a minute.
If you do not have Joy with you, place tweezers on the head of the tick, as close to
your skin as you can. Gently pull the tick out in a straight motion.
Never twist as you are removing the tick. Do not squeeze the tick's body,
as this can push fluid from the tick into your skin, which will increase your
risk Lyme disease. Keep the tick in a ziplock bag
for at least two weeks, since the tick can be tested for Lyme Disease if your own
test is negative. If the tick head is remaining in your skin, make an
appointment with your doctor right away.
Diagnosing Lyme Disease
symptoms of Lyme Disease are similar to many auto-immune conditions.
If a patient does not know he or she was bitten by a tick, the
physician may not even consider the possibility of Lyme Disease.
Time will pass as the patient undergoes many tests, remaining
untreated for weeks to months to years. Lyme Disease is much
more easy to cure with treatment beginning in the first week of
contraction. Long term Lyme Disease is extremely difficult to
treat, if not impossible to some. Additionally, there is great
debate in the proper treatment of late stage Lyme Disease, resulting
in many patients suffering further damage as they search for correct
There are several
tests that can be conducted to detect Lyme Disease.
Unfortunately, it is common to have the disease and test negative.
If you receive a test in the first month of your disease, you will
probably test negative for Lyme Disease. That is why it is
imperative for a knowledgeable physician to review a patient's
symptoms and begin treatment immediately with antibiotics, despite a
negative Lyme Disease test. If the patient knows of a recent
tick bite and is displaying symptoms despite a negative Lyme Disease
test, treatment must be started right away. If the patient is
displaying symptoms, does not know of a tick bite but lives in an
area that is known for ticks, again, treatment should begin.
"Treat from the symptoms, not from the test."
Symptoms of Lyme
Erythema Migrans, or
"Bullseye Rash." This is a rash that may form around the tick bite,
looking similar to a bullseye. Not everyone who contracts Lyme Disease
will get this rash - while some will form a rash on other places of the
body. If you do not have a bullseye rash, it does not mean you have
not contracted the disease.
Cold or flu-like
symptoms after the bite.
Tingling or Numbness
(Paralysis of the Face)
Arthritis, which can
cause permanent damage if in late stage Lyme Disease.
Short Term Memory
Damage to the Nervous
Lyme Disease Testing
There are several
tests available to diagnose Lyme Disease. Remember, tests will
probably show negative in the first month, and can still be negative
for months to years later. Additionally, if treatment begins
immediately for Lyme Disease as it should, even the best tests may
still show negative in the future because the bacterium levels can
(Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay Test or Blot Test) - This is a simple
blood test that can detect Lyme Disease after the first month of
C6 Lyme Peptide ELISA
- A very sensitive test to detect Lyme Disease.
If the above tests show
negative results but symptoms remain, a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)
Test can be performed. Fluids from a spinal tap or synovial fluid from the
joint is tested for the bacterium.
Treatment for Lyme
Doxycycline, Amoxicillin or Ceftin are often used in the first four
weeks of contraction to treat Lyme Disease. Although there is
debate over the length of time antibiotics are given, many
physicians are finding a greater chance for cure if antibiotic
treatment continues for four weeks after all symptoms are gone.
If the patient demonstrates any lingering symptoms of Lyme Disease,
the bacterium is still present and antibiotics should continue.
Later stages of
Lyme Disease are often treated with intravenous Ceftriaxone (Rocephin).
How to Avoid Ticks
If you live in an area
with brush, shrubs, wood or sand, you are certainly near a tick population.
Keep your yard clear of wood and debris and avoid walking near bushes and trees.
Do not sit on brick or stone walls.
When you are preparing to
go outdoors, spray yourself with tick repellant that contains deet. You
may spray your clothes with repellant as well. Wear light clothes and tuck
your pants into your socks. Tie your hair back and walk in the middle of
trails. Remember, ticks are active in temperatures over 45 degrees.