Lyme borreliosis, commonly known as Lyme diseases is an infectious bacterial disease transmitted through the bite of the blacklegged tick. It is named after the neighboring towns of Lyme and old Lyme, Connecticut. The first reported cases of Lyme disease came from these towns in 1975. Although, it was not discovered that the disease was a tick-born disease until 1978 by Allen Steere. Today it is the most common disease caused by ticks throughout the east coast and California. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011, 96% of Lyme disease cases were reported from these areas in the United States.
Black-legged ticks live for about two years, where they go through three stages; larvae, nymph, and adult. The young nymph will usually feed off another infected animal carrying the bacterium from the animal in its gut. When the nymph feeds again it transmits the bacterium into its new host, usually another rodent or a human. Most cases of humans infected with Lyme disease occur during the late spring and summer. This is when the nymphs are the most active and when humans tend to do outdoor activities.
Nymphs are less than 2mm making it hard for the human eye to see. Adult ticks on the other hand are much larger making it easier for a person to see them and react in time. Adult ticks often feed off of deer. Although deer do not get infected, they play the biggest role in transmitting Lyme disease and maintaining tick populations. No other species of ticks found throughout the United States have been found to contribute to the transmission of Lyme disease. Lyme disease can be transmitted several other ways; blood, pets, and during pregnancy.
Although no cases have been reported of a person being contaminated from the touch of blood, scientists have discovered that the bacterium found in Lyme disease can live in the blood that is stored for donation. As a precaution, patients who have been treated with antibiotics for the disease must wait a year before donating. There is no evidence that a pet cat or dog can directly transmit Lyme disease to their owners. However they can bring infected ticks into the home, contributing to the possible transmission of Lyme disease. Protect your pets and your family by using tick controlled products for animals.
Women avoid woodsy areas during pregnancy. Acquiring Lyme disease during this time may cause an infection in the placenta and possibly a stillbirth. Studies show that with the proper treatment the fetus will not be affected. There is yet to be evidence of Lyme disease being passed on through sexual contact, mosquitos, lice, fleas, flies, breast milk, air, or water. Lyme disease can affect various body systems, producing different symptoms. The most common symptoms being muscle pain, headache, fever, itchiness, light headedness, and stiff neck.
Early localized, early disseminated, and late disseminated are the three stages of Lyme disease. The early localized stage is usually three to thirty days after the tick-bite. In this stage a common red – rash that expands over time is called erythema migrans may appear. Symptoms such as chills, fatigue, headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes are also usual. The rash appears on 70 to 80 percent of infected patients. It can take anywhere from three days to thirty days after being bitten for the rash to appear.
The rash will gradually expand over the days, becoming up to 12 inches in width. Once it begins to expand some parts may clear up causes a “bull’s eye” appearance. The rash may appear on any part of the body, not necessarily where the tick bit. If the rash is left untreated, the second stage of Lyme disease comes into play. The early disseminated state usually will cause the rash spread to other areas of the body. Bell’s palsy is also common during the disseminated stage. It is the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face.
Other symptoms that may occur during this stage are pain and inflammation in the large joints, intense pains that may interfere with daily activity, and neck stiffness due to meningitis; the swelling of the spinal cord. Patients who go months without treatment enter the late disseminated stage. Patients who enter this stage often get mild arthritis; with tremendous joint pain and inflammation. The area that is mostly affected are the knees. Patients who never get treatment for Lyme disease will often experience shooting pains, numbness in the hands or feet, and problems with memory loss years after the infection.
About 10 to 20 percent of patients will still feel symptoms even after being treated with antibiotics. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. Some symptoms being muscle pains, rational defects, insomnia, and fatigue. The post-treatment for Lyme disease will often occur because of an auto immune response. This means that the person’s immune system continues to react, causing destruction to muscle tissue throughout the body. Even after the infection has cleared. Scientists also say that persistent treatment can make the post-treatment Lyme disease worse; in fact it can be very harmful to the patient.
Lyme is characterized as spirochete infection, which release bacterial lipoproteins. Bacterial lipoproteins are related to problems similar to short term memory loss, neurological pains, and numbness. The spirochete travels in a cork like movement, making it easier to burrow itself within the tissues and organs of the body. Once the spirochete passes through the body it interacts with the dendritic cell, which is an important component to all immune systems. Dendritic cells mostly process the antigen material and presents it to various parts of the body.
The spirochetes will rub the antigens of the bacterial infection onto the dendritic cell. The dendritic cell will then begin to process the bacterial infection. After, the helper T cells will pick up the antigen and move them to a different part of the immune system where the killer T cells are found. The killer T cells are in charge of killing the infectious spirochete, using the antigens to identify the Lyme disease. The spirochete will continue to burrow itself into different tissue and organs spreading more antigens. The killer T cells follow the spirochete destroying both good and bad tissue and organs.
This occurs because the killer T cells are unable to distinguish between the antigen of the spirochetes and the antigen of healthy muscle tissue. This will cause inflammation of the good tissue, which is a main symptom of Lyme disease. Lyme disease can sometimes be challenging to diagnose because its known indications are similar to the ones in many other diseases. The most common way a doctor will diagnose Lyme disease is by observing the “bull’s eye” rash. If the patient shows no sign of the rash the doctor will often order a blood test three to four weeks after the incident.
Because Lyme disease is difficult to separate from body tissue or fluids two test are used; ELISA and Western Blot. ELISA measures the levels of antibodies against the Lyme disease that is preset in the body. Western Blot is used when the ELISA results are positive or uncertain. It is used to identify antibodies directed towards protein found on the Lyme bacteria. A spinal tap test may be given to a patient experiencing nervous system problems. This procedure consists of the removal of spinal fluid, which is then sent to a lab to undergo diagnosis. The main treatment used to cure Lyme disease is a set of oral antibiotics.
Doxycycline and amoxicillin are amongst the most popular antibiotics used on adults and children older than 8 years old. Cefuroxime is usually prescribed to infants, pregnant, and breast-feeding women. This treatment usually will be prescribed for 7 days. In some cases where the infection is severe and has affected the patient’s nervous system, the doctor will recommend intravenous antibiotics. This treatment is prescribed for 14 to 28 days. Side effects are possible when consuming these medications. A low white blood cell count and in some cases diarrhea are common.
Although antibiotics eliminate infection, it may take some time for the symptoms to vanish. There are many ways to prevent Lyme disease; the best way is to avoid areas where deer live, wooded, bushy, and areas where long grass grows. Taking some precautions will also decrease the risk of attaining Lyme disease. Wear long pants and long sleeves when walking your dog, use insect repellent, check yourself, your children and pets after spending time in forested areas. Ticks that should be found on yourself or anyone else should be removed with a pair of tweezers as soon as possible.
Grasp the tick by its face or mouth and gently but steadily pull. Once you have removed the tick, be sure to dispose of it and place antiseptic on the infected area. Citations Board, A. D. A. M. Editorial. Lyme Disease. U. S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Nov. 0000. Web. 16 Jan. 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 Oct. 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2013. “American Lyme Disease Foundation, Inc. ” American Lyme Disease Foundation. American Lyme Disease Foundation, Inc. , 15 May 2011. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.