Lyme disease (sometimes mistakenly called "Lymes" or "Lymes disease") is a serious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi .
Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of a tick carryng the disease. The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis - a small tick about the size of a poppy seed) is the most common carrier, but other tick species have also been known to carry and transmit Lyme disease. Deer and mice are frequent hosts of the deer tick so Lyme disease is more common where those species are found.
The first symptom of Lyme Disease is a distinctive rash known as erythema migrans and commonly called a bullseye rash. It is a gradually-expanding,rounded, red rash which usually develops a white area in the middle after several days(hence the term "Bulls Eye"). Erythema migrans is sometimes warm but rarely itchy or painful, and can occur 3 to 30 days after being infected. It is important to note that the bulls eye rash is only seen in about 80% of all Lyme Disease victims.
Other early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, chills, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.
Later symptoms include arthritis, headaches, severe joint swelling and pain, wandering lameness (symptoms will appear in one joint and go away only to recur elsewhere), heart palpitations and changes in heartbeat. Nervous system symptoms can also occur - these include Bell's Palsy (loss of muscle tone in one side of the face), numbness in the hands or feet and problems with memory and concentration.
Lyme disease is diagnosed via blood tests which indicate exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi. If you are experiencing any Lyme Disease symptoms or think you may have been exposed to a tick bite you should consult your physician, especially if you have been in a region where Lyme is endemic.
Although you can contract Lyme disease at any time of the year, most new cases occur between May and July, when the ticks are most active.
Early treatment with oral antibiotics (usually doxycycline amoxicillin or cefuroxime) can lead to a complete cure. Occasionally the disease will recur after a few weeks, and require a second course of these medications. In patients in later stages of the disease or having cardiac involvement, intravenous antibiotics are indicated.
Caught early, Lymes disease is curable. However if not treated promptly Lyme Disease symptoms can become chronic. It is believed that the chronic nature of Lyme Disease may be at least partly due to an autoimmune response in the victim's body.
Lyme disease can best be prevented by avoiding ticks, wearing light colored, protective clothing, use of tick repellents and insecticides like DEET, Permethrin or Picaridin and by checking your body and clothing for ticks daily.