Lyme disease is an infectious disease that can develop after a bite from an infected tick. The bacterium which causes the disease is the Borrelia burgdorferi. Infection with this bacterium can have serious consequences, which renders treatment necessary. However, the diagnosis is difficult and the treatment is often long-lasting and intense.
Lyme disease can cause all kinds of symptoms and complaints. The disease has three stages with different symptoms in each stage: early Lyme disease, early disseminated Lyme disease and the late Lyme disease.
Lyme disease symptoms that may arise at any stage of the disease:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Painful joints
- Muscle pain
- Impaired concentration
Early Lime Disease
The first sign of an infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is a red ring-shaped rash around the tick bite. This circle (erythema migrans) appears a few days to two weeks after the bite. In some cases the circle appears only after several months. This ring will first become larger and then disappear completely. Important to know is that not everyone who is infected with Lyme disease suffers from this type of rash.
Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
The bacterium that causes Lyme disease spreads through the body through the bloodstream. At this stage of Lyme disease one can suffer from the following symptoms:
- Acute problems with the nervous system, such as meningitis
- Transient paralysis
- Loss of strength
- Difficulty walking
- Pain and cramping in the head, face and neck
- Joint Inflammation
- Cardiac arrhythmias with fainting
Late Lyme Disease
Sometimes symptoms appear even a year after the tick bite, mostly skin or joint problems. This is called the late Lyme disease. The skin becomes red-purple in color, is swollen and feels warm. Later the skin – often on arms or legs – becomes paper-thin
Lyme disease: treatment
Lyme disease is a complex disease that is usually easy to treat with antibiotics. Damage to the nervous system and joints cannot always be recovered completely. The treatment of Lyme disease is adapted to the duration of the infection and intensity of the symptoms. The sooner you start treatment, the better and faster you heal. After a cure of antibiotics going from 14 days to a month, 38 to 70 % of patients are still asymptomatic after three years. Because the Lyme bacterium has good survival mechanisms, a treatment of 1 to 4 years with a high dose of antibiotics is often required to kill all Lyme disease-causing bacteria in the body. Sometimes a combination of different antibiotics is also used, in order to counteract these persistent bacteria. Despite these drastic Lyme disease treatments, the disadvantages of long-term antibiotic use do not weigh enough in the balance against the consequences of untreated Lyme disease.
Prevent a tick bite
Ticks are tiny animals that look like flat spiders. They are about 1 to 3 millimeters in size and occur mainly in forests, dunes, moors and meadows. Ticks bite in the skin of humans and animals in order to suck blood. Tick bites can occur all year round, but the peak is in the months of March to October. On “Tekenradar.nl” you can find an overview of the places in the Netherlands where ticks have been identified and where they can be expected. When you adventure into nature, always wear closed shoes and cover your arms and legs.
If you’ve been out, it is important to check yourself daily for tick bites. If you find a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible, for example, with a special tick tweezers. The longer the tick is in your skin, the more likely you are infected with Lyme disease. Not every tick bite causes Lyme, you can only get it from an infected tick. Unfortunately, it cannot be seen on the animal if it has been contaminated so it is important to always keep in mind the symptoms of this disease after a tick bite.
Lyme disease: consequences
Lyme is not a fatal disease, but it can have serious consequences. In the long term, effects of Lyme disease include memory loss, paralysis, joint pain and skin complaints. Therefore it is not always possible to work and participate in society, causing Lyme patients to often feel isolated. Moreover, it is sometimes a long process with many doctor visits before the diagnosis of Lyme disease is made, leaving many patients feel misunderstood.
Do you suffer from the above symptoms and you are often outdoors, please always be aware of the possibility of having contracted Lyme disease and mention this to your doctor. The sooner the treatment is started, the faster you can heal.