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Information for Lyme Disease Sufferers

What is Lyme Disease?

Tick biting a victim, which can lead to Lyme Disease.

Lyme disease, also called borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia bacteria. This particular bacteria is spread through a bite from a tick, usually a black-legged or deer tick.

  • Lyme disease is the leading cause of vector borne illnesses in the U.S., despite being treatable (if diagnosed early) and preventable.
    • A Vector borne illness is a disease unintentionally spread by organisms to other organisms through a bite or sting for example. Lyme disease (caused by tick bites) and malaria (caused by mosquito bites) are vector borne illnesses.

  • Lyme disease is not contagious from an affected person to someone else.
  • Left untreated, Lyme disease can cause abnormalities in the skin, joints, heart, and nervous system.

Do I have it?

Tick bites can lead to Lyme Disease, learn how to protect yourself.

One sure sign of Lyme disease is a round, red rash that spreads at the site of a tick bite. This rash can get very large. Flu-like symptoms are also very common. In the early stages, you may feel very tired and have headaches, sore muscles and joints, and a fever.

These warning signs can start at any time, from 3 days up to a month after you were bit. Some people don't have any symptoms when they are in the early stages of Lyme disease. And they may not even remember getting a tick bite.

If you experience a tick bite and especially if you develop the bulls-eye rash, go see your doctor. If Lyme disease goes untreated, you can have more serious symptoms over time.

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosing the Lyme Disease Bacteria.

If you see a tick, remove the tick as soon as possible. After removal, put the tick in a jar with some rubbing alcohol and take it to a Lyme disease specialist or your doctor for analysis. The purpose of analysis is to determine whether or not the tick is carrying Borrelia bacteria, and therefore whether or not you might have contracted Lyme disease as a result.

Lyme disease may be hard to detect because its symptoms are similar to those of many other illnesses. If you and your doctor think you have Lyme disease, your doctor will do a careful medical history and physical examination, along with some other tests, including:

Antibody tests. The most commonly used tests to help identify Lyme disease and keep track of its treatment. There are three types of antibody tests to detect Lyme disease:

  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). This common and rapid test to identify Lyme disease antibodies is the most sensitive screening test.
  • Indirect fluorescent antibody(IFA). This test also screens for Lyme disease antibodies.
  • Western blot test. This test also identifies Lyme disease antibodies and can confirm the results of an ELISA or IFA test. It is most often done to detect a chronic Lyme disease infection.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing detects the genetic material of the Lyme disease bacteria. PCR testing may be used to identify a current (active) infection if you have symptoms of Lyme disease that have not gotten better with antibiotic treatment.

Skin culture. A skin culture checks a tissue sample for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It may take several weeks for test results to come back.

How did I get it?

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia bacteria, which are transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. If a tick has attached itself to you, it will begin feeding (sucking blood), which usually takes anywhere between 12 and 48 hours. Generally, if you discover a tick attached to your skin that has become engorged, it has been there long enough to transmit bacteria into the bloodstream.

How do I get rid of ticks?

Ticks are small, blood-sucking members of the Arachnida class (with spiders and scorpions). They are parasitic creatures, which means they rely on other organisms for sustenance. The organisms they survive on are called hosts. They survive by attaching to, and drinking the blood of, many types of creatures.

  • Ticks are most active during the spring and summer months.
  • Ticks live in grassy and wooded areas, including gardens and lawns.
  • Ticks generally go after mammals, rodents and birds, but also occasionally reptiles and amphibians.
  • Ticks cannot fly or jump. They crawl, and will often fall onto a potential host from a branch, shrub, or from high grass.
  • Ticks prefer to hang out in or around shrubs, trees, fallen logs, tall grasses, and dead leaves.
  • Ticks can sense heat and carbon dioxide coming from a potential host, which they use find a host and attach to it.

Commercial tick removers are the best option for removal. Make sure you follow the instructions for use. If you don’t have one, the next best thing is a pair of fine tipped, needle-nose tweezers.

To remove an attached tick:

  1. Grasp it firmly by its neck/head area with your tweezers.
  2. Gently but firmly pull it straight out of your skin with a steady tug.
  3. Immerse the tick in some rubbing alcohol to kill it.
  4. Apply anti-septic and wash the spot where the tick was attached thoroughly with hot water and soap.

Take caution when removing a tick. The following are things you should NOT do. If you find a tick on your body, Do Not:

  • Jerk the tick as you pull it out. This can cause parts of the tick’s head and mouth to remain embedded in your skin.
  • Squeeze the main part of the tick’s body. Only grasp it by its head with the tweezers. If the body is squeezed or ruptured, the tick can “throw up” into your skin, which increases the risk of infection or getting Lyme disease.
  • Burn it off with a lighter, lit match, or lit cigarette, this can also cause the tick to “throw up”.
  • Smother it with petroleum jelly, or Vaseline. It is believed that coating a tick with a viscous substance will suffocate it. Not advised; however, as ticks only breathe at a rate of twice an hour. Waiting for the tick to suffocate, die, and fall off only means more time that infection and Lyme disease can be spread from the tick to you.

Do you have more questions?

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