Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by Ixodes ticks, also known as deer ticks, and on the West Coast, black-legged ticks.
Although people may think of Lyme as an East Coast disease, it is found throughout the United States, and on all continents except Antartica.
Symptoms of early Lyme disease may present as a flu-like illness (fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and joint pain). Some patients have a rash or Bell’s palsy (facial drooping). However, although a rash shaped like a bull’s-eye is considered characteristic of Lyme disease, many people develop a different kind of Lyme rash or none at all.
An extensive list of symptoms of chronic Lyme disease was developed by Dr. Joseph Burrascano, a pioneer in treating chronic Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis—based on your medical history, symptoms and exposure to ticks. Because the typical Lyme disease diagnostic tests are so insensitive, a negative test result does not mean you don’t have Lyme. There are many reasons why someone who actually has Lyme may have a negative test result. There may not have been time for antibodies to develop; the immune system may be suppressed; or the person may be infected with a strain the test doesn’t measure.
Tests can not only help to diagnose a disease, but also to manage an illness. A good test can help a doctor assess the severity of disease, estimate the patient’s prognosis, monitor the course of disease progression, stability or resolution, detect relapse, and select drugs or adjust therapy. Unfortunately, a test with this capability does not exist for Lyme disease. To learn more about specific tests, visit: Lyme Disease Tests.
Click here for information on tick removal and tick testing.
Ticks can carry many bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoans all at the same time and transmit them in a single bite. The most common tick-borne diseases in the United States include Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). Diseases acquired together like this are called co-infections.
Your best defense against tick-borne illness is to avoid contact with ticks in the first place. Your next best defense is to quickly find and remove any ticks that may latch on to you.
Avoid Tick Habitat
Use Repellent on Exposed Skin
Check for Ticks
Shower after returning from outdoors
Put your clothes in. a hot dryer for 10 minutes
Protect your pets
Historically, the routine treatment for Lyme disease was a course of standard antibiotics. Experts agree that the earlier you are treated the better, since early treatment is often successful. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of patients treated with short-term antibiotics continue to have significant symptoms. and lingering symptoms of muscle pain, fatigue and cognitive impairment can continue for years — sometimes indefinitely.
It is important to find a provider familiar with tick borne illnesses in order to get appropriate treatment. Click here for the LymeDisease.org physician directory. The Lyme Disease Association also has a physician referral service. If you are having difficulty finding a physician, you can contact our Lyme Support Group for information.