Lyme’s disease: treatment
Treating Lyme’s disease
A tick bite can transmit Lyme’s disease. This can sometimes cause serious health problems. However, the risk of infection is not very high, and in most cases, Lyme’s disease can be treated. In addition, it is important to begin the treatment of Lyme’s disease as soon as possible.
How high is the risk to contract Lyme’s disease?
Lyme’s disease can lead to various, sometimes severe complaints. The infectious disease is transmitted by a tick bite, but only if the relevant tick is infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This is the case for about 20% of the tick population. Fortunately, not everyone who is bitten by a contagious tick gets Lyme’s disease. The bacterium is not transmitted directly from tick to human. This risk increases when the tick stays longer on the skin. If the tick is removed quickly (within 24 hours) and properly, the risk of infection with the sickening bacterium is very small. Remove the tick properly to prevent Lyme’s disease.
Eventually, 3% of the infected people get Lyme’s disease. This may seem quite low, but in the UK about 3000 new cases of Lyme’s disease are reported each year. Have yourself tested for Lyme’s disease? If you are infected, it is wise to start immediately with a treatment for Lyme’s disease.
How does Lyme’s disease progress?
Lyme’s disease does not develop in the same way for everyone. That makes it so difficult to make a timely and good diagnosis. The “lucky” ones get symptoms pretty soon (within a few weeks) after the bite. Usually, these symptoms are a red circle on the skin around the spot where the tick has bitten, flu-like complaints and muscle or joint complaints.
The disease can then be treated immediately, limiting further damage to the body as much as possible. However, there are also people who do not immediately experience complaints but only in a much later stage. This is disadvantageous because the bacterium has then had a much longer time to spread and cause damage. Generally, joint complaints, skin complaints, heart problems or nervous system problems occur. Sometimes these complaints are serious, such as a heartburn inflammation, meningitis, paralysis or chronic fatigue.
Lyme’s disease treatment: medicine
The standard treatment for Lyme’s disease consists of antibiotics, such as:
These drugs kill the Borrelia bacteria responsible for the disease. Antibiotics are prescribed at all stages of the disease, usually in tablet form, sometimes in intra-venous form. Generally, the sooner Lyme is determined, the shorter the treatment will be. At a later stage, it becomes increasingly more difficult to kill the Borrelia bacteria, so antibiotics will have to be used for a long time.
Duration of the cure
The treatment of Lyme’s disease varies from person to person. A short cure usually takes about 10 days. Depending on the stage of the disease and the complaints, the duration of the course can be extended to four weeks. Most people do not suffer any symptoms anymore after the treatment. Sometimes, however, symptoms remain longer. This is called Post-Lyme syndrome. A doctor may then decide to prolong the antibiotic cure. In a single case, this is not effective and the diagnosis is then changed to chronic Lyme’s disease.
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Medication against Lyme’s disease during a pregnancy
A pregnant woman who is suffering from Lyme’s disease could theoretically infect her unborn child, even though the chance of this is very small. Despite pregnancy, an upcoming mother who has Lyme’s disease symptoms should be treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, not all types of antibiotics are suitable for use during pregnancy. The treatment needs to be chosen carefully. Doctors will prescribe specific cures for pregnant women suffering from Lyme’s disease.
Lyme’s disease treatment: specialist
If you experience many problems with your joints, your nervous system or other symptoms, a GP may refer you to a specialist, such as a rheumatologist or a neurologist.
Preventing Lyme’s disease
Preventing Lyme’s disease is a lot better than having to cure it. There are a number of measures that help to prevent a tick bite, and thus a contamination, with the Borrelia bacterium:
• Ticks are not active all year long: the risk of a tick bite is greatest from May until the end of the summer.
• Stay as much as possible on the trails and do not walk through high grass or bushes.
• Wear protective clothing if you are in nature (for example, forests, parks, heath, dunes). High shoes and long trousers with the ends pushed in the socks prevent any tick from reaching the skin of the legs. Also, wear long sleeves and a cap.
• An insect repellent with DEET keeps ticks to an appropriate distance.
• If you are bitten by a tick, remove the animal as quickly as possible and check the skin on that spot. If within a few weeks a red circle or a red spot appears, or if you suffer from flu-like symptoms, please contact a doctor. A test can clarify whether you have been infected with Lyme’s disease.
If you want more information about the treatment of Lyme’s disease, a doctor can provide more details.
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Last updated on May 24, 2017.