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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

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Lyme disease is a very infectious kind of disease that is gotten from the bite of an infected black-legged tick also called a deer tick. Initially the tick isn’t infected but after perching on an infected deer or mice, it becomes a carrier of the infection.

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The infection is caused by the infestation of a particular group of bacteria called the Borrellia specie. There are four types of bacteria in the borrellia specie that causes this disease and they are Borrellia burgdoferi, Borrellia Mayorni, Borrellia Afzelii, Borrellia garini bacteria.

Only two of these bacteria causes Lyme in the U.S and they are Borrellia burgdoferi, Borrellia Mayorni, while the last two, Borrellia Afzelii and Borrellia garini bacteria infect people living in Asia and Europe.

You have a huge tendency to contract lyme disease if you live within a grassland or you spend time in areas that contains heavy woods. This is because these areas are the areas where deer ticks are found.

These ticks are mostly Brown and sometimes impossible to spot. To get this disease, the tick must actually bite you after which they release the bacteria through the bite into the bloodstream.

For most cases, the tick will be attached underneath your skin for about 36-48 hrs before they can fully do the harm into your blood. For the young ones, they are quite impossible to spot, and if it’s the small ones that bites you, then you just may not know when they came unto your skin.

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If it is the adult tick that bites you, you may find out that after the attached tick falls off, it may look swollen.

This means it had adequately had its fill of your blood so much that it could pass the bacteria into your system. But the ability to remove the tick as soon as possible will help prevent the further spread of infection.

There are some risk factors that can affect your chances of getting this disease. They include:

  1. If you spend a lot of time in a woody or grassland area: Children and young adults who spend their time playing in the grasses or moving about in grasslands are more susceptible to this disease.
  2. Having exposed skin: Most times ticks are usually attracted to bare and open skins. Once you are in an area where ticks are very common, always learn to cover your bodies very well. Don’t expose any area of your skin as they might just decide to attach there.

Asides the kids, ensure that your pets don’t wander about in grasslands because pets too can be a carrier of these ticks.

  1. If you don’t notice that a tick is on the body and as such, you don’t remove them on time:

When you have this tick attached to you for a long period of time, there is always every tendency that the bacteria are being passed into the bloodstream. It takes about 36-48hours for the tick to pass bacteria into the blood.

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There are three distinct stages of Lyme disease that we need to know about and the symptoms associated with these stages. They are:

The early localized Lyme stage

At this stage, the patient will be experiencing a lot of flu-like symptoms such as severe fever and cold, partial headaches, lymph nodes that are swollen, sore throat, and a rash that typically had the appearance of a bull’s eye.

The rash presents at the site of the tick bite. It’s neither painful or sore. It doesn’t itch as well, and it usually disappears at most 4 weeks after it comes up. This rash is known as erythema migrans.

It is a typical feature of Lyme disease and it varies in appearance based in the complexion of the patient. For a light skinned person, it looks solid red while for a dark-skinned person, it looks like a bruise.

The early disseminated lyme stage

This stage is more severe than the early localized lyme stage. This stage will now include pain, weakness in the arms, numbness in the legs. The person will also experience severe vision changes, heart palpitations and severe angina or chest pain, rash and Bell’s palsy (which occurs as a result of paralysis of the facial muscles).

However, this stage may be complicated, and symptoms increased if the patient has meningitis or is a victim of cardiac overlap. If the patient is undergoing these two complications, then the patient will like to have both symptoms of stage 1 and 2 and the same time.

The late disseminated Lyme stage

For this stage to occur, it takes a longer time. It could take weeks or months, sometimes even years after the tick bite before the symptoms eventually manifests.

However, the symptoms of this full-blown Lyme stage are very severe and deadly. The symptoms include severe tiredness and fatigue, severe headaches and body pains, arthritis, vertigo, severe sleep disturbances, difficulty engaging or keeping a conversation, short term memory loss, severe brain disorders, and eventually mental confusion.

There are 4 major complications that are associated with Lyme disease and they include:

  1. Neurological disorders and bell’s palsy
  2. Arrhythmia and heart disorders
  3. Cognitive problems such as memory disorder
  4. Chronic inflammation of the joints otherwise known as arthritis.

When experiencing these symptoms, kindly visit your doctor for proper check-up and prompt treatment. The longer the symptoms persist, the more severe the case becomes. Even if the symptoms disappear, you should still report to the doctor.

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However, there are a lot of precautions one can undertake to prevent contacting the disease in the first place. For as many that stay in a heavy-wooded area or in grasslands, you are advised to carry out the following precautions to be on the safe side.

  1. The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to steer clear of areas where these ticks live. Even while living in those areas, you can stay off the areas with grasses and woods.
  2. Always put on clothes and shoes: One thing ticks love is bare skin. So, in order to avoid them perching on your skin, avoid wearing clothing that will expose your skin. When you are in these areas, always wear shoes, long pants which are tucked inside your socks, hat, gloves etc.
  3. Always used insecticides or insect repellents: Using insect repellents will prevent the tick from even coming near your skin. This is because most insect repellents have a higher concentration of DEET and this DEET is very harmful to all kinds of insect.
  4. Always check your children, pets and clothing for ticks most especially after you have spent some time in a grassland. If possible, immediately take a shower. Water will help remove all unattached ticks.
  5. Never assume you are immune to ticks. Remember, we all are susceptible to them.
  6. Remove any tick you find on the skin as soon as you can: Ensure you remove any tick you see as soon as possible with tweezers. Do this by gently grasping the tick by the head or by the mouth. Ensure not to squeeze or crush the tick rather pull it out steadily and gently.

Once you have been able to remove the tick, then you can now decide to kill it and dispose of it. After removal, immediately apply an antiseptic to the site of the bite.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker
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