Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is transmitted through ticks and is quite common in North America and Europe. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is responsible for causing this disease. The bacterium is harbored by deer ticks, which feed on human and animal blood. Those affected with this disease are known to recover completely with proper treatment, although recovery may be slower if treatment is administered in the later stages of the condition.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Usually, lyme disease results in a skin rash that is noticed at the area of the tick bite. The rash may appear within a few days or may be noticed only after a month. Tick bites usually occur in damp areas such as the belt or groin region. Many people also suffer from tick bites at the back of the knee.

  • The rash appears as a small and red raised area. The inflammation spreads in a few days time. There is likely to be a reddish ring around the bump and a red spot in the center. This rash is known as erythema migrans and occurs in a majority of people affected with lyme disease.
  • Flu like symptoms such as tiredness, body aches, fever and chills may also occur along with the rash.
  • If treatment is not administered immediately, the individual may start experiencing joint aches and swelling, which may increase in severity. This pain may sometimes take even a month to develop. The knees are most commonly affected.
  • In some cases, neurological symptoms may also develop. Meningitis which is characterized by inflammation in the membranes around the brain may occur in some affected individuals. A side of the face may also get temporarily paralyzed and there may be a numb and weak sensation in the limbs.
  • Some people experience impairment in muscle functioning for months and even years if the disease is left untreated.
  • Some of the rarer signs and symptoms of lyme disease include irregular heartbeat, inflammation of the eyes, hepatitis and exhaustion.

It is important to consult a doctor as soon as you suffer a tick bite or experience any of the symptoms of the disease. Deer tick bites will not lead to lyme disease if treatment is begun early. The risk of developing the condition increases if the tick stays in the skin for a longer period of time.

Causes of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is mainly spread through deer ticks. These ticks are very small in size and brown in color. This often makes them difficult to spot. Deer ticks cling on to a host and feed on the blood. As they feed on the blood, the ticks start swelling and increasing in size. While they feed, they transmit bacteria to the host. These bacteria are responsible for causing the disease. Deer ticks usually feed on the blood of deer, mice and even small birds. But they do also attach themselves to humans and animals such as horses, dogs and cats. The ticks inhabit bushy and wooded areas and wait for humans or animals to pass by. The summer months are when deer ticks are highly active. An individual contracts lyme disease when an infected deer tick bites him. The bacteria penetrate the skin at the area of the bite and travel into the bloodstream. Before the bacteria enter the skin, the deer tick must feed on the blood and this may take up to 48 hours of feeding. Bacteria are transmitted only by ticks that are attached to the skin. It is possible to prevent infection by removing the tick from the skin as soon as possible.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors in grassy or wooded regions may get bitten by deer ticks, as they commonly inhabit such areas. Children who spend considerable time outdoors and individuals whose professions require them to remain outside are at a higher risk for developing lyme disease. Areas in which mice are commonly found are also places where deer ticks commonly live. The deer ticks feed on the mice and thus transmit the disease. The ticks adhere easily to exposed flesh and people who enter grassy areas without full protective clothing may be at risk for the disease. Pets who wander off into such areas may also get bitten by deer ticks. A tick usually transmits the bacteria into the skin after feeding for 48 hours or more. During this time the tick should be removed properly to prevent infection. In case lyme disease is not treated, several serious conditions can occur such as lyme arthritis or chronic inflammation of the joints, mainly the knee. Irregular heart rhythm, impairment in memory and neurological complications may also occur.

Remedies for Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is treated through a course of antibiotics. The standard treatment for the condition in the early stages is oral antibiotics. This helps to treat the infection and prevent further complications. Usually antibiotic medication must continue for about 14 to 21 days. In case the disease has not been treated in the early stage and has now progressed, intravenous antibiotics must be administered for about 14 to 28 days. Intravenous antibiotics may trigger certain side effects such as diarrhea and reduced white blood cell count. In some cases, individuals still experience symptoms such as tiredness and muscle ache even after treatment. The exact cause of this is not known, but it is believed that those affected with lyme disease become vulnerable to an autoimmune response and this leads to the symptoms.

There are some natural remedies which are known to help in dealing with symptoms of lyme disease. These should never be used as a substitute for medical treatment. It is also advisable to discuss with your doctor before using these remedies.

  • The long course of antibiotics which is necessary in antibiotic treatment often leads to gastrointestinal issues. This can be prevented by consuming probiotics which are the ‘good’ bacteria. Probiotics are contained in many different types of products such as yogurt and other fermented foods.
  • Garlic is also a valuable natural remedy for lyme disease since it possesses natural anti-bacterial properties. Garlic may be added to foods or may be taken in pill form. It helps to boost immunity to a large extent as well.
  • The mushroom ganoderma which is known to have medicinal properties is also sometimes recommended to reduce inflammation and infection.
  • Other alternative treatments such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy and use of the herb cat’s claw are sometimes promoted as beneficial lyme disease remedies. However there is not much evidence regarding the effectiveness of these treatments.
There are some simple ways to protect oneself from lyme disease.
  • Firstly it is highly important to be careful when entering wooded or grassy areas. The skin must be entirely protected. It helps to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. You can also wear gloves to protect the hands.
  • It is best to stick to the trails when walking in forested areas and avoid walking through long grass and bushes. If you have a pet with you, keep it on a leash.
  • For further protection, you can apply an insect repellent. If you will be spending more time in grassy areas, use an insect repellent with a higher concentration. A 10 percent concentration will provide protection for up to two hours.
  • You can even use lemon eucalyptus oil as it serves as a natural insect repellent.
  • It is advisable to clear leaves and brush from your yard as ticks tend to thrive in such places. Also ensure that woodpiles are placed only in sunny areas.
  • If you have been on an excursion to any area with dense vegetation have a bath as soon you come home. Also use a wash cloth to get rid of any ticks that are not washed off.
  • Make sure that you check for ticks on children and pets.

An important point to remember is that even those who have had lyme disease before can still get it again. If you notice a tick on the skin, grasp it gently using a pair of tweezers and pull it out carefully. Once you are sure that the entire tick is removed, dispose it off and rub the area with some antiseptic solution. Ensure that you do not crush the tick while removing it.

Diet for Lyme Disease

Immunity plays a very important role in preventing any disease. The immune system is better able to fight infection when the body receives adequate nourishment from food. Therefore the diet must be healthy and must consist of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are healthy, you will be able to recover and heal much faster from infections.

Suggestion for Lyme Disease

Natural treatments such as applying petroleum jelly or a lit match to get rid of a tick do not always work and may even cause the tick to penetrate the skin further. Therefore it is advisable to remove the tick in a proper manner and also seek appropriate medical treatment.

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Lyme Disease - Frequently asked questions