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Causes and symptoms of Lyme Disease

Find out the treatments and celebrities with Lyme Disease

What to know

Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in the Northern Hemisphere. It is estimated to affect 300,000 people a year in the United States and 65,000 people a year in Europe. Infections are most common in the spring and early summer.

Lyme disease was diagnosed as a separate condition for the first time in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It was originally mistaken for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The bacterium involved was first described in 1981 by Willy Burgdorfer.

Lyme disease is an infection that is transmitted through the bite of a tick infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Source: Web MD

Chronic symptoms following treatment are well described and are known as “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” (PTLDS). PTLDS is different from chronic Lyme disease; a term no longer supported by the scientific community and used in different ways by different groups.

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Some healthcare providers claim that PTLDS is caused by persistent infection, but this is not believed to be true because no evidence of persistent infection can be found after standard treatment. A vaccine for Lyme disease was marketed in the United States between 1998 and 2002 but was withdrawn from the market due to poor sales. Research is ongoing to develop new vaccines.

In the northeastern and north-central U.S., the black-legged tick (or deer tick) transmits Lyme disease. In the Pacific coastal U.S., the disease is spread by the western black-legged tick. Source: Web MD

Here is a brief about the causes and symptoms

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia bacterium which is spread by ticks.

The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness on the skin, known as erythema migrans, that appears at the site of the tick bite about a week after it occurred. The rash is typically neither itchy nor painful.

Early stages of symptoms. Source: Web MD

Approximately 70–80% of infected people develop a rash.

Other early symptoms may include fever, headache, and tiredness.

If untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, or heart palpitations, among others. Months to years later, repeated episodes of joint pain and swelling may occur.

As the infections spread. Source: Web MD

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected ticks of the genus Ixodes.

In the United States, ticks of concern are usually of the Ixodes scapularis type and must be attached for at least 36 hours before the bacteria can spread.

In Europe, ticks of the Ixodes ricinus type may spread the bacteria more quickly.

In North America, Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii are the cause.

In Europe and Asia, the bacteria Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are also causes of the disease.

The disease does not appear to be transmissible between people, by other animals, or through food.

Late-Stage disease. Source: Web MD

Diagnosis is based upon a combination of symptoms, history of tick exposure, and possibly testing for specific antibodies in the blood.

Blood tests are often negative in the early stages of the disease. The testing of individual ticks is not typically useful.

Prevention includes efforts to prevent tick bites such as by wearing clothing to cover the arms and legs, and using DEET-based insect repellents. Using pesticides to reduce tick numbers may also be effective.

How is Lyme Disease treated?

Antibiotics are used to treat early-stage Lyme infection. Patients typically take doxycycline for 10 days to 3 weeks, or amoxicillin and cefuroxime for 2 to 3 weeks. In up to 90% of cases, the antibiotic cures the infection. If it doesn’t, patients might get other antibiotics either by mouth or intravenously.

For early disseminated Lyme disease, which may happen when a Lyme infection goes untreated, oral antibiotics are recommended for symptoms such as facial palsy and abnormal heart rhythm. Intravenous antibiotics are recommended if a person has meningitis, inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or more severe heart problems.

How to remove a Tick. Source: Web MD

In late-stage Lyme, a patient may receive oral or intravenous antibiotics. Patients with lingering arthritis would receive standard arthritis treatment.

There is no treatment for post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.

Who is likeliest to get Lyme Disease?

Infection is more common in males up to age 15 and between the ages of 40 and 60, says Taege. “These are people who are more likely to play outside, and go camping, hunting, and hiking,” he says.

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Lyme infection drops off in older teens and those in their 20s “because they’re inside on their computers.’. Older adults tend to have more time to work in their backyard which is where most Lyme infection is transmitted.


What’s the best way to prevent a tick bite?

Ticks can’t fly or jump, but instead, they live in shrubs and bushes and grab onto someone when they pass by. To avoid getting bitten you should follow these rules:

Wear pants and socks in the woods, areas with lots of trees, and while handling fallen leaves

Wear a tick repellent on your skin and clothing that has DEET, lemon oil, or eucalyptus.

Apply an insect repellent containing DEET directly to your skin. Source: Web MD

For even more protection, use the chemical permethrin on clothing and camping gear.

Shower within 2 hours after coming inside, if possible.

Look at your skin and wash ticks out of your hair.

Put your clothing and any exposed gear into a hot dryer to kill whatever pests might remain.

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Celebrities with Lyme Disease 

Justin Bieber is the latest celebrity to reveal they have been diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Justin Bieber. Source: Jordan Strauss AP

His fellow Canadian singer Avril Lavigne revealed in 2015 she had been battling the condition for a year and said she was bedridden for five months.

2011 Teen Choice Awards - Arrivals
Avril Lavigne. Source: Jason Merritt Getty Images

Other high-profile sufferers of Lyme disease include Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin and the model Bella Hadid. Hollywood star Alec Baldwin said he feared he would die when he was diagnosed with the illness.

Alec Baldwin. Source: Kenzie Bryant Vanity Fair
Bella Hadid. Source: Wenn | Getty Images

Shania Twain has told how the disease left her unable to sing after she was bitten by a tick in 2003 while in the US.

Shania Twain. Source: Bryan Steffi Getty Images

Perhaps the most vocal campaigner trying to raise awareness of Lyme disease is the Dutch former model Yolanda Hadid, who said the illness has left her “often wishing to die of utter hopelessness and exhaustion”.

Mother and daughter of Yolanda and Gigi Hadid. Source: Astrid Stawiarz Getty Images

Featured Image Origin: Web MD