May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

It’s the time of the year… tick season. For those of us who live in areas know for the prevalence of ticks, it’s a real concern. Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses are a real concern.

Lyme Disease is characterized by achy joints, fatigue, nerve damage and heart complications. If Lyme disease is not caught early, it can lead to more severe and debilitating illnesses or complications such as Lyme carditis.

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that results from being bitten by an infected deer tick. The prominence of Lyme disease is growing due to the migration of the white tail deer to more regions of the United States. It has become increasingly important to recognize the tick as well as the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. as many more people are being introduced to Lyme disease for the first time.

Early Signs of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease typically shows up within three to seven days of a bite. It shows up as a rash that is raised but not itchy and then spreads in a circular fashion creating what is often described as a bulls-eye. It’s important to also know that during this same three to seven day period, you could see bulls-eye rashes in other areas outside the initial tick bite area. Also, you may develop some other signs of systemic disease such as headache, muscle or joint pain, fever and swollen lymph nodes.

Later Signs of Lyme Disease

Late Lyme disease can develop months or even years after the initial bite.  Some of those symptoms included chronic joint pain and swelling, one of the most common locations being the knee.  Lyme disease can also cause chronic inflammation of the nerves and brain, which can cause nerve palsies.

Lyme Carditis

Sometimes Lyme disease can cause a heart condition called Lyme carditis.  Lyme carditis occurs when Lyme disease bacteria enter the tissues of the heart and start to interfere with the normal movement and electrical signals from the heart’s upper to lower chambers.   This condition is known as AV Block. According to the CDC, only 4-10% of patients with Lyme disease develop Lyme carditis and about 1% of patients with Lyme disease develop AV Block.

About AV Block

AV Block occurs when the electrical signal conduction of the heart is impaired and the heart’s rhythm and mechanical beating gets out of sync.  When this happens, the blood doesn’t get pumped adequately, starving the body of blood and oxygen, which could lead to sudden cardiac death.

Patients with Lyme carditis may experience light-headedness, fainting, heart palpitations, shortness of breath or chest pain. Patients with Lyme carditis usually have other symptoms such as fever and body aches, as well.    Lyme carditis is treated with Oral or Intravenous antibiotics, depending on the severity of the disease.   Most patients are treated two to three weeks and the symptoms are gone within one to six weeks.   In rare severe cases, patients may be require a permanent pacemaker.

Reported Cases of Lyme Disease – USA 2016

 

Perform Daily Tick

Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Search your entire body for ticks when you return from an area that may have ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and remove any tick you find. Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:

Graphic: Tick sizes
  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside the belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around all head and body hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

Check your clothing and pets for ticks because they may carry ticks into the house. Check clothes and pets carefully and remove any ticks that are found. Place clothes into a dryer on high heat to kill ticks. Source: CDC https://www.cdc.gov/features/lymedisease/index.html

 

Resources for Lyme Disease Information