Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks that feed on deer and small rodents, such as field mice. The ticks can attach themselves to humans and pierce the skin for a blood meal.

As they feed, they infect humans with spirochetes (spiral bacteria) that spread outwardly, causing the red, circular, and expanding rash characteristic of many, but not all cases of early Lyme disease.lyme disease rash on shoulder

Lyme disease was first used to refer to an arthritic condition affecting children in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It was later learned that the arthritis was a complication of a tick bite and that the disease was not limited to that region.

The condition has now been diagnosed in the Northeast, including coastal Delaware, the upper Midwest, and on the Pacific Coast. It usually occurs between April and October, with most cases in June and July. Although 30,000 cases are reported in this country each year, the true Lyme disease rate is probably ten times higher than that figure.

What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The ticks which cause Lyme disease are very small, only about the size of a poppy seed, and the bites often go unnoticed. Even when the tick is fully engorged with human blood, it is difficult to see.

If you do notice a tick on your body, remove it by grasping it firmly with tweezers. Kill it by pouring alcohol or bleach, and save the specimen to show to your doctor (be sure not to get any bleach on your skin). If you cannot remove the tick or only part of it comes out, see your doctor.

The rash usually appears within 3 to 32 days of the tick bite lyme disease size of tics before and after eating
though 20 to 40% of infected people may never develop the rash. If you do develop the rash, you may later have smaller rashes elsewhere.

As the spirochetes spread throughout the body, they may cause fever, flu-like symptoms, headaches, swollen lymph glands, and fatigue. If the heart becomes affected, you may experience dizziness, weakness, and irregular heart beats.

If the spirochetes invade the nervous system, you may have trouble with concentration and muscle coordination. You could also develop Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis) on one or both sides of the face or similar conditions involving the nerves. Joints may become swollen and painful: the knee is the most frequently affected.

If the disease is left untreated, chronic arthritis may develop. Pregnant women should be particularly watchful for tick bites and evidence of Lyme disease, since the disease could be transmitted to the fetus. In the vast majority of cases, however, pregnancies among women with Lyme disease have normal outcomes.

What are the prevention/treatment options?

lyme disease symptoms on the arm
Oral antibiotics are usually effective in treating Lyme disease and preventing the long-term complications. The antibiotic used depends on the patient and the extent of the disease.

Try to prevent Lyme disease by avoiding exposure to ticks. In the wooded areas, and especially during the summer months, use tick repellent containing the chemical DEET.

Wear a hat, long sleeves and pants, and tuck pant legs into socks or secure them around your ankles with a rubber band.

Wearing light colors will make it easier to see ticks on your clothing.