10 Things You Didn't Know About Lyme Disease

BY | May 20 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY

10-things-about-lyme

When I contracted

Lyme disease

in 2011, I had no idea that it was as serious and complicated a disease as I soon learned. May is

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

, a time for people to gain some knowledge about how to protect themselves and their dogs from this debilitating illness.Here are ten things I didn't know about Lyme disease before I contracted it.

1. Not everyone gets โ€œthe rash.โ€

Lyme disease is characterized by a bullโ€™s eye rash called

Erythema chronicum migrans

, which occurs at the site of the tick bite three days to one month after the bite. According to the

Center for Disease Control

, only 70-80% of people bitten get the rash. This is quite scary because the rash is the clinical sign that most doctors use to diagnose Lyme. If you donโ€™t get the rash, but were bitten by an infected tick (and perhaps didnโ€™t realize you were bitten), you may not get diagnosed until it's far too late to treat the disease easily.

2. Lyme disease occurs in all of the connected 48 states.

Contrary to popular belief, Lyme disease is not localized to Connecticut. It occurs in the state where you live (unless youโ€™re in Alaska or Hawaii, in which case, youโ€™re in luck!). Be careful!

3. Lyme disease is incredibly hard to diagnose in humans.

The tests for Lyme disease are sorely inaccurate and may give false negatives to a Lyme victim for years. This is due to the way Lyme works in the body โ€“ it suppresses the immune system and doesnโ€™t allow the victim to make Lyme antibodies, and tests only look for antibodies, not the Lyme bacteria.

4. If caught too late, Lyme disease can become chronic.

Lyme disease can be cured with simple antibiotics in the first few weeks of infection. Left untreated beyond that, Lyme patients may become seriously ill and antibiotics can be ineffective.

5. Lyme disease can be fatal.

People die from complications due to Lyme disease. The Lyme bacterium affects every organ and tissue in the body, including the brain and heart.

6. Lyme disease often comes with โ€œbonus diseases.โ€

Other

tick borne infections

can be found in Lyme patients, including Bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever), Babesia, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tick Borne Relapsing Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, and many others. The Lyme patient must heal from these diseases as well, making treatment far more complex.

7. You canโ€™t get Lyme disease from your dog, nor can you give it to your dog.

Lyme disease is passed to a human or dog by a โ€œvectorโ€ animal, typically a tick, though some reports say that Lyme can be passed by fleas and mosquitoes too. The tick bites a mouse or deer (or other animal) infected with the Lyme bacteria, and then passes it along in its next meal.

8. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease.

Just because you or your dog are bitten by a tick does note mean that either of you will get Lyme disease, or any other disease. Some ticks, like the American Dog Tick, are less likely to carry Lyme,

according to the CDC

.

9. Removing a tick with tweezers is not the only way to disengage it.

Tweezers have long been the recommended method of removing a tick, but it can be difficult to remove the entire tick this way (the head of the tick), and can be hard for squeamish people. Thereโ€™s a new, all natural tick removal solution on the market called Tick-SR โ€“ it safely removes ticks without irritating them and without you having to touch the tick or the bite site. It also contains a natural disinfectant.

10. Lyme is a controversial disease.

This is a weird one. Itโ€™s very hard for human Lyme patients to get treatment coverage from their insurance companies, and some people, including doctors, donโ€™t even believe that Lyme disease exists. The explanation is very long, but it has to do with conflicts of interest and politics. If you want to learn more about it, see the Lyme documentary, Under Our Skin , available on Netflix.

Do I Have Lyme Disease? (Quiz)

lyme-disease-quizLyme disease

 is a tick-borne illness that can cause very scary symptoms -- from a rash and aches and pains to lasting neurological trauma, depending on how quickly the disease in caught and treated.

People who'd have Lyme disease

can have very different experiences, some recovering quickly and completely, and some having to continue treatment of the disease their entire lives.The trickiest thing about Lyme is that the symptoms are varied, and that not everyone experiences the same ones. What's more, symptoms can appear anywhere from a few days to a few months after the actual tick bite, so nailing down the cause of Lyme symptoms is often very difficult. Numerous patients report going through several false diagnoses before realizing that they in fact have Lyme. This

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

, we're spreading the word about how to spot this disease and get treatment to stop it from progressing.

So How Do I Know if I Have Lyme Disease?

The follow symptoms can point to Lyme disease. If you think or know you've been bitten by a tick, keep on the lookout and talk to your doctor if you feel you need to be tested for Lyme.

Nearly-Sure Sign of Lyme Disease1. Bull's-eye rash:

The most well-known Lyme symptom is a rash that develops into a "bull's-eye" shape, with a large ring encircling a center irritation. The rash is usually red and inflamed, but usually not itchy, and it usually appears at the site of tick bite, but could also appear on another part of the body. Sometimes the rash doesn't even have the bull's-eye shape.Be aware that not everyone infected with Lyme sees the bull's-eye rash, too. If you do see it, however, it is a very clear indicator that you've probably contracted Lyme.Sensing a pattern? Nearly everything about Lyme disease can be different from person to person, which is why early detection can be so difficult.

Possible Early Signs of Lyme Disease

The more of these you experience together, the greater the chances are that you've contracted Lyme.

2. A tick bite:

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that ticks transmit when they bite. The blacklegged tick, or 

deer tick

, most commonly carries Lyme. If you or your pets have been hiking in an area with ticks, check yourself and your pets, and

remove any ticks

. Talk to your vet and if possible, bring in the preserved tick for testing.

3. Flu-like symptoms:

 Symptoms like fatigue, fever, chills, headache, muscle pains, joint pains, and swollen lymph nodes can indicate Lyme.

Possible Later Signs of Lyme Disease

If you've progressed to these symptoms from any of the ones above, it's likely that you could have Lyme and you should talk to your doctor.

4. Facial or Bell's Palsy:

A loss of muscle tone on one side of the face, or both sides, resulting in a "sagging" look, can be an indicator of Lyme.

5. Severe headaches and neck stiffness:

An inflammation of the spinal cord (meningitis) due to Lyme can cause these symptoms.

6. Pain and swelling in the knees or other large joints7. Shooting pains:

These pains may even interfere with your sleeping.

Symptoms of Disseminated Stage Lyme Disease

These symptoms are some of the worse Lyme has to offer.

8. Arthritis9. Severe joint swelling and pain10. Numbness or tingling in hands and feet11. Cognitive defects:

Short-term memory problems, difficulty focusing, hallucinations

Help spread the awareness!

Share this with your friends and family, especially the outdoorsy types this summer, and stay on alert for the symptoms of Lyme disease.

Nikki Moustaki is an award winning author, dog trainer, and pet expert. She has been dealing with Lyme disease and its co-infections since early 2011. www.nikkimoustaki.com

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