DefinitionLyme disease is a bacterial infection. The infection is spread from the bite of an infected deer tick.
CausesLyme disease is caused by bacteria found in some deer ticks. An infected tick passes Lyme disease to humans through its bite.If untreated, the bacteria can pass into the blood. The blood will carry it through the body. The bacteria may then settle in various body tissues.
Risk FactorsFactors that increase your risk of Lyme disease include:
- Living in the northeastern, northwestern, mid-Atlantic, or upper north-central regions of the United States and northwestern California
- Outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and gardening in areas/seasons with deer ticks
- Living near or going to wooded, grassy areas
- Working outdoors such as surveying, landscaping, forestry, gardening, and utility company service work
SymptomsThe symptoms of Lyme disease will be different in each person. They can also range from mild to severe.The first sign may be a red rash. The rash starts as a small red spot at the site of the tick bite. It will then spread over the next few days or weeks to form a circular or oval-shaped rash. Sometimes, the rash resembles a bull's eye with a red ring around a clear area with a red center. The rash may cover a small dime-sized area or a wide area of the body.
|Lyme Disease Rash|
|This is an example of a Lyme disease rash shaped like a bull's eye. It may not always be this shape, nor will a rash always appear.|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Early InfectionIn the first 3-30 days after the bite, if the infection has not spread you may notice:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen glands
Early Disseminated InfectionAn infection that has begun to spread may cause the following symptoms in days to weeks after the bite:
- Multiple lesions
- Persistent headache, stiff neck
- Diffuse numbness, tingling, burning
- Intermittent joint pain and swelling
- Impaired motor coordination
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Muscle pain and swelling
- Facial paralysis ( Bells palsy )
Late InfectionSymptoms can develop months or years after the tick bite in untreated infections. These symptoms may occur regularly or intermittently and include:
- Painful inflammation of the joints ( arthritis )
- Trouble with concentration or memory
- Shooting pains, numbness, and tingling
- Heart abnormalities
- Eye problems, such as conjunctivitis
- Chronic skin disorders
- Limb weakness
- Persistent motor coordination problems
DiagnosisLyme disease may be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the history of a tick bite.After 4 weeks of Lyme disease, your body may create antibodies against the infection. A blood test may help look for these antibodies. The blood test cannot confirm or rule out Lyme disease. Instead, the results of the blood test will be used in combination with your symptoms and personal history to make a diagnosis.
TreatmentLyme disease responds well to antibiotics. These medications can kill bacteria. The length of your antibiotic treatment will depend on your condition. You may need to take them for 10 days to 3 weeks or more. You may be given the antibiotics by mouth or by injection.To relieve pain from chronic arthritis you doctor may recommend:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- Steroid injection directly into the joint
PreventionTry the following to help prevent Lyme disease:
OutdoorsIf you live or are visiting northeastern, northwestern, mid-Atlantic, or upper north-central regions of the United States and northwestern California:
- Avoid areas that are likely to be infested with deer ticks, such as moist, shaded, wooded, or grassy areas
- When going to wooded, grassy areas, especially in spring and summer:
- Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
- Wear enclosed shoes.
- Wear a long sleeve shirt. Tuck it into your pants.
- Tuck pants into socks or boot tops.
- Wear a hat.
- Stay on cleared, well-traveled paths and walk in the center of trails to avoid overgrown grass and brush. Avoid sitting on the ground or stone walls.
- Remove leaf litter, brush, and woodpiles from around the home and the edges of the yard.
- Do not apply near eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Do not apply to children's hands.
- Wash your skin when you return indoors.
Tick ManagementDeer ticks are unlikely to pass the infection unless they are in contact with the skin for at least 24 hours. After spending time outdoors in a high risk area:
- Do a full-body check for ticks at the end of a day spent outdoors. Consider bathing or showering within 2 hours of coming indoors.
- Check your child for ticks. Make sure to check for hidden areas like the hair, around the ears, or behind the knees.
- Check pets and gear for ticks.
- Put clothes worn outdoors in the dryer for 20 minutes. This will kill any unseen ticks.
- Use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull directly outward. Use gentle but firm force. Do not twist the tick out. Try not to crush the tick's body or handle it with bare fingers. This can spread the infection.
- Wipe the site with an antiseptic to prevent infection.
- Do not put a hot match to the tick.
- Do not cover the tick with petroleum jelly, nail polish, or any other substances.
MedicationIf you have a tick bite and live in a high-risk area, your doctor may recommend a dose of antibiotic. This may reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease if taken within 72 hours after a tick bite. However, this antibiotic can have serious side effects in children younger than 8 years old. This prevention step is only used in people older than 8 years of age.The risk of getting Lyme disease after a single tick bite is low. Many experts do not recommend preventive antibiotic treatment.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Lyme disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme. Updated January 6, 2015. Accessed January 15, 2015.
Lyme disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 24, 2014. Accessed January 15, 2015.
Lyme disease. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/lymedisease/Pages/lymeDisease.aspx. Accessed January 15, 2015.
Lyme disease. American Academy of Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease.html. Updated March 2014. Accessed January 15, 2015.
Nadelman RB, Nowakowski J, et al. Prophylaxis with single dose doxycycline for the prevention of Lyme disease after an Ixodes Scapularis tick bite. N Engl J Med. 2001;345:79-84.
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Wormser GP, Dattwyler RJ, et al. The clinical assessment, treatment, and preventionof Lyme disease, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, and babesiosis: clinical practice guidelines by theInfectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2006;43:1089-1134.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Warshafsky S, Lee DH, Francois LK, Nowakowski J, Nadelman RB, Wormser GP. Efficacy of antibiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of Lyme disease: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.J Antimicrob Chemother. 2010;65(6):1137-1144.
- Reviewer: David L Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 01/2015
- Update Date: 01/13/2014
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