Lyme disease is no laughing matter. In 2010 94% of the cases of the illness in the United States were reported in 12 states, one of which was Massachusetts. Lyme disease is spread through the bite of a tick infected with one of three bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia. The main culprit for most cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. is the strain of Borrelia called Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto.
Cases of Lyme are growing more prevalent each year, and to date there is still no definitive test for the disease. Doctors continue to diagnose patients based upon their symptoms, history, and blood testing results. Many of us do not realize that there are actually three stages of the disease. These are referred to as the early stage, the early disseminated stage and late Lyme disease (also known as chronic Lyme disease). Knowing the symptoms is crucial to be able to get to your doctor quickly and begin immediate treatment. Letting the disease progress can drastically affect your health and way of life for months, and in some cases years.
Symptoms of the early stages of Lyme disease
Early Lyme disease symptoms usually occur within days or weeks after being bitten by an infected tick. These include headache, fatigue, malaise, fever and chills, muscle and joint pain, swelling of the lymph nodes and in some cases a “bull’s eye” rash. This distinct rash is called Erythema migransand can appear from 1 day to 1 month following onset of the disease. In some cases, the rash will not appear at all. Many of the symptoms of early Lyme disease can mimic the flu, but should not be ignored as such. In many cases the first clue is the timing of Lyme disease onset. Here in the U.S. seasonal flu generally peaks in January and February. Most of the time beginning in October each year and lasting until May in some cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2001 through 2010 the majority of Lyme disease cases reported in the U.S. peaked in the months of June and July. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms during a period when the flu has passed, this should raise a red flag to get straight to your doctor.
Early disseminated or second stage Lyme disease
Early disseminated Lyme disease means that the disease is beginning to spread throughout the body and will start to affect certain body functions during this stage. This stage can occur weeks or months after the onset of the disease and can lead to problems such as paralysis of facial muscles, abnormal heart rhythms, numbness and/or pain in the extremities and Meningitis. Meningitis involves the swelling of the protective membrane covering the brain and the spinal cord and can cause fever, stiffness in the neck,and severe headaches.
Late stage Lyme disease, or chronic Lyme disease
This stage of Lyme disease is hard to chart in terms of timing because this stage can occur weeks, months and even years after patients did not catch the progression of the disease in time to seek antibiotic treatment. In some cases even patients who have been diagnosed and treated for Lyme earlier in their illness can develop chronic Lyme disease because the treatment did not kill all of the bacteria that was responsible for the disease. Chronic Lyme disease patients can develop into what is called Chronic Lyme Arthritis with periods of swelling and pain in one or more of the predominant large joints, especially in the knees. They can also develop nervous system problems, memory loss and suffer from chronic pain in their muscles and have difficulty sleeping. Many of those with Chronic Lyme are on long-term antibiotic treatment to help alleviate the discomfort later stages of this disease can cause.
No Ticks- No Disease
If you or a member of your family is displaying any of the symptoms of Lyme disease, at any stage, the most important thing to do is to contact your physician at the earliest sign of any symptoms or if you have been bitten by a tick and something just doesn’t feel right. Like the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, this could not be more true when it comes to diagnosing tick-borne illnesses early.With blood testing and keeping records of known tick bites, you and your physician will be better able to diagnose and treat the disease in the early stages.
The best way to prevent tick-borne illness and disease like Lyme is tick control and prevention. Mosquito Squad of Leominster combines tick tubes with our safe and highly effective barrier sprays to prevent you from coming into contact with a potentially infected tick on your property, thus reducing your chance of contracting a tick-borne disease. Contact us today for a free quote!