Each year we take some time to tell you about Lyme disease. You may wonder why we continue to cover this topic. Here’s why… Lyme disease diagnoses have increased 357% over the past 15 years, and Pennsylvania is consistently among the list of states with the most cases. If we want you to be healthy and stay healthy, we need to help you understand and avoid Lyme disease if at all possible.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected black-legged ticks. The first sign of infection is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of three to 30 days. The center of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a bullseye appearance. It may be warm, but it is usually not painful. Patients also experience symptoms of fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. In some cases, these may be the only symptoms of infection.
Untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body within a few days to weeks, producing an array of discrete symptoms. These include loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face, severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis, shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat, and pain that moves from joint to joint.
After several months, approximately 60% of patients with untreated infection will begin to have intermittent bouts of arthritis, with severe joint pain and swelling. Large joints are most often affected, particularly the knees. In addition, up to 5% of untreated patients may develop chronic neurological complaints months to years after infection. These include shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, and problems with concentration and short term memory.
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings, and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease. Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics, especially if treatment is begun early in the course of illness. However, a small percentage of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that last months to years after treatment with antibiotics.
Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease. There are several approaches you and your family can use including wearing long socks and pants when you are outdoors and using repellent and tick checks.
If you would like more information, please join us at our FREE Lyme Disease Seminar!
Tuesday, May 23 at 7:00 PM | Grand Point Church, Chambersburg