Understanding Treatment
for Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease?

As the most common tick-borne illness in North America, Lyme disease affects approximately 300,000 every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick — black-legged ticks that are often no bigger than a poppy seed, and their bite is painless — making it easy to leave undetected. You’re more likely to get Lyme disease if you live or spend time in grassy or heavily wooded areas, as these are the places ticks carrying the bacteria thrive. Taking proper precautions in tick-infested areas is crucial in preventing the chances that you may contract Lyme disease.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

While signs and symptoms of Lyme disease vary from person-to-person, they’ll often present themselves in stages — and sometimes these stages overlap. Three to 30 days after an infected tick has bitten you, an expanding red area may appear that often clears in the center — similar to a “bullseye” pattern. This rash, called erythema migrans, isn’t itchy or painful, but it may feel warm to the touch and expand slowly over a few days and grow as large as 12 inches. While this “bullseye” is a key indicator of Lyme disease, not everyone will develop the rash. Other early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, neck stiffness, and swollen lymph nodes.

If Lyme disease is left untreated, new signs and symptoms may develop — usually in the following weeks and months. These later symptoms of Lyme disease can include additional “bullseye” rashes around the body, bouts of severe joint pain, and swelling (most often in the knees, with pain shifting from one joint to another). You may also experience neurological problems, such as temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell’s palsy), inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis) that can cause fever, headache, or neck stiffness, numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.

How does ID Care diagnose Lyme disease?

A few weeks after you’ve been infected with Lyme disease, your body will develop antibodies — which help ID Care experts confirm or rule out your diagnosis. We perform two main tests to identify whether or not you have Lyme disease, the first being an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test. However, this test is not always distinctive enough to make a proper diagnosis — especially if you do not have a rash. Depending on the stage of your infection, the ELISA test may provide false-positive or false-negative results so our experts will perform further testing to confirm your diagnosis. Using the two-step Western blot test, we will be able to detect both the antibodies and proteins associated with Lyme disease and confirm your diagnosis.

How does ID Care treat Lyme disease?

Fortunately, the majority of people with Lyme disease will recover fully after receiving the appropriate treatment. Our team primarily treats Lyme disease with oral antibiotics immediately after we confirm your diagnosis — because the sooner you’re treated with the right antibiotics, the more likely you are to recover quickly and completely. However, if you receive treatment in later stages of Lyme disease, you may need intravenous antibiotics as your response to treatment may be slower.

How can I prevent Lyme disease?

The best way for you to prevent Lyme disease is to cover up when entering wooded or grassy areas — tuck long pants into your socks, wear a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and gloves — and avoid walking through low bushes or long grass. You can also prevent Lyme disease by applying insect repellents with a higher concentration of DEET to your skin. After you’ve come back inside, do a thorough check of your clothing, your body, your children, and your pets for ticks — we also recommend showering as soon as you come indoors as ticks often remain on your skin for hours before attaching themselves. If you do find a tick, remove it as quickly as possible using tweezers — avoid squeezing or crushing the tick and instead grasp the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible, pull carefully and steadily. You can dispose the tick by flushing it down the toilet or by putting it in alcohol, and remember to apply an antiseptic to the bite area.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic