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Lyme Disease

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Lyme disease is a tick-born illness that is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria can be harbored by a specific type of tick, the deer tick, which feeds on both animal and human blood and therefore can easily transmit the disease from animal to animal. The ticks capable of spreading this disease are most commonly found in grassy areas and heavily wooded zones, so individuals in these areas where they thrive are most likely to contract the disease.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Lyme Disease

This bacteria can be carried by different parasites, but its most common transmitter is the deer tick. Because these ticks are earth-colored and not typically much larger than a pinhead, they are easy to miss and therefore can easily bite prey and transmit the infection. A deer tick that has been infected must bite in order to transmit Lyme disease to a human or animal. The bacteria will enter into the skin and eventually make it into the blood stream. In most cases, the tick must be attached for a minimum of 36 hours before the bacteria can cause the disease. When Lyme disease is left untreated, there are a number of complications that can occur. These include: heart rhythm irregularities, cognitive defects, impaired memory, neurological symptoms like neuropathy and facial palsy and chronic joint inflammation, which is known as Lyme arthritis.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Lyme Disease

The signs and symptoms associated with Lyme disease can vary from person to person. They typically involve multiple systems in the body including the nervous system, the skin and the joints. Early signs and symptoms will include: fever, fatigue, chills, body aches, rash and headache. Later symptoms of Lyme disease include: neurological problems and joint pain. There are also some less common symptoms including eye inflammation, liver inflammation or hepatitis, heart problems such as arrhythmia and severe fatigue.

The most common tests to diagnose Lyme disease include: a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, Western blot test and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA test. All three of these tests may be used in order to make sure that the diagnosis is correct. The ELISA test looks for B. burgdorferi antibodies, but it is never used as the sole test for determining a Lyme disease diagnosis. The western blot test is a two-step approach that looks for antibodies for proteins belonging to the bacteria. The PCR test detects bacterial DNA in fluid that is drawn from a joint that has been infected.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is treated using antibiotics. Recovery will be quicker and more effective when treatment is given sooner rather than later. Oral antibiotics and intravenous antibiotics may be used depending on what systems the Lyme disease is affecting. Some people continue to experience symptoms of Lyme disease even after the infection has been cured using antibiotics, but these symptoms can be treated by treating the autoimmune response. These people may have a predisposition to an autoimmune response, which is likely why they continue to experience symptoms. Most symptoms can be treated using pain relievers and other over the counter medications as needed.