Lyme disease (LD) is caused by the transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called spirochete. Spirochete is carried by the black-legged ticks (commonly known as deer ticks). White-footed mice and white-tailed deer are the most common carriers of these ticks.
The prevalence of LD includes the Northeast and Upper Midwest making those a typical Lyme prone areas. However, Lyme disease is reported to reach Mexico and is expanding in Canada. But while Northeast is considered to have the highest report of Lyme disease, California and Florida are reported to have the highest positive LD test results.
Scientists point out to a variety causes of Lyme infection widespread. Reforestation is one of the driving factors of tick expansion especially in the Northeast where LD is more prevalent. Suburbanization, climate change, and temperature extremity are the other factors to consider. Animals migrating and humans’ constant traveling to the country are the other mode of the widespread.
How does Lyme disease start?
It was mentioned that deer and white-footed mice are deer ticks’ common carriers, but have you consider their size. Black-legged tick is as big as a poppy seed though it varies on which stage a tick is. The poppy size ticks are those that in their nymph stage while larvae size are sand-like. Adults’ size, on the other hand, is like of an apple seed. Deer ticks lifespans last from 1-2 years.
Once an infected tick bites humans or animals, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream, establish itself in tissues that cause various symptoms which some may severe. Oftentimes, a red blotch or bulls-eye rash appears on a person who has been bitten by an infected black-legged tick. This rash is called the erythema migrans, or EM rash for medical term. If a person is confirmed to have the Lyme disease, severe symptoms like mental confusion may occur in a later stage.
The good news is, Lyme disease is not easily transmitted. If you have been bitten by an infected tick, it will take 36-48 hours to transmit spirochete. Black-legged ticks are often fed in the areas of the body where it is warm and exclusive like armpit, nape, groin, back of the knee, and legs; and if you ever spot one, check if the tick is fully fed. If not, there is a high possibility that you are not infected with spirochete.
However, spotting a poppy size tick is quite challenging and you have to be gifted with very sharp eyes to notice one. In this case, prevention is your best weapon.
Who are at risk?
According to reports, Lyme disease is more common to males whose age are around 15 as well as those in 40-60 years of age. It is because these are the common age for a male to be adventurous and outgoing.
How can it be prevented?
Whether you are a traveling type of person or your area is simply an LD prone area, you better wear long pants and socks whenever you are outside, especially on a shrubby or bushy place.
You can apply tick repellent on your skin that has DEET, lemon oil, and eucalyptus. Spraying your clothes and camping gears using the chemical permethrin are also effective.
Experts advise showering within 2 hours upon returning home, inspecting licks attach in the hair or any parts of the body. Basically, crawling licks can be washed by shampoo. However, if you found an already feasting pest, you better get a tweezer and pluck it out.
Make sure to pluck all the body parts of the tick and dispose of it either by placing it in a soapy water or alcohol, stick it to a piece of tape, or flush it down to the toilet. Also, disinfect the area where the tick bites. Clothes and other gears are recommended for a dryer spin to kill any unseen infected tick.
Prevention is not limited to personal precautions but it can also be applied to the surroundings. Keeping your lawn mown is one way. Others are neatly stacking of woodpiles in dry areas, clearing all brush, tall grasses, and leaf litter, and having a licensed professional spray.
But as much as preventative a person is, there is always a lucky infected black-legged tick that goes through and feast on one’s blood. Levels of symptoms of Lyme disease vary on the stage wherein a person has.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Localized early (acute) stage shows symptoms like a solid red or bulls-eye rash (EM rash as mentioned above) that usually appears upon the insect bite. EM rash is neither painful nor itchy but is expanding. It may or may not be warm. It appears 1-2 weeks upon spirochete transmission and it persists for about 3-5 weeks. Swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, general ache, and headache are the other symptoms in the localized early stage.
In the early disseminated stage, two or more rashes appear that are not in the site of a tick bite. Other symptoms include visual change, facial paralysis, extreme tingling or numbness, severe fatigue, multiple enlarged lymph glands, and heart palpitation also start to manifest.
Later stage of Lyme disease comes with the symptoms of arthritis, sleep disturbance, and neurological disorder. Patients at this stage also experience mental confusion. They are unable to concentrate, finish sentences, or follow conversations. Short-term memory loss and memory fog may be present as well. The later stage can occur weeks, months, or even years after the tick bite.
The professionals don’t understand it, but 10% of people treated by Lyme disease are roughly having a post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome which means that patients do not shake the disease off. The syndrome includes joint or muscle pain, short-term memory loss, fatigue, and confusion. They are still studying as to why these syndromes occur. A theory, like the autoimmune disorder wherein the body continues to fight when the bacteria was long gone, arise to the matter.