Lyme disease - symptoms, treatment and prevention

What is Lyme disease

Lyme disease - an illness that results from INFECTION with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi in North America and other Borrelia species in Europe. The bite of the Ixodes scapularis tick, common in wooded areas throughout the northern United States, spreads the infection. B. burgdorferi infection primarily causes flulike symptoms though may also affect the CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM, cardiovascular system, and the joints.

Symptoms of Lyme disease

Symptoms of Lyme disease begin 5 to 30 days after a tick bite, typically with a characteristic RASH called erythema migrans. The rash starts at the site of the bite and looks somewhat like a bull’s eye around the bite. The rash expands over five to seven days, becoming large and raised, and may burn or hurt. The rash may also spread to other parts of the body.

Other symptoms may include

Though these symptoms, including the rash, will go away without treatment, the infection remains in the body and extends its involvement. Untreated Lyme disease may cause

  • NEUROPATHY (tingling and numbness in PERIPHERAL NERVES), ENCEPHALOPATHY (disturbances of BRAIN function), and MENINGITIS (INFLAMMATION of the membranes that surround the brain and SPINAL CORD)
  • BELL’S PALSY (PARALYSIS of the facial muscles)
  • arthritis (inflammation of the joints), particularly in the knees and hips
  • PALPITATIONS, dizziness, and changes in BLOOD PRESSURE resulting from cardiovascular involvement

Lyme disease - Treatment

BLOOD tests confirm the diagnosis. Treatment with ANTIBIOTIC MEDICATIONS eliminates the infection. People who receive early diagnosis and treatment nearly always recover quickly and fully. When the infection has spread to multiple body systems, residual effects may continue for several months.

amoxicillin ampicillin
azithromycin cefuroxime

Lyme Disease Prevention

Tick precautions when hiking or camping in tick-infested areas are the most effective means of preventing Lyme disease. Such precautions include wearing long pants tucked into high boots or socks to prevent ticks from attaching to the lower legs, examining the entire body for ticks after activities of possible exposure, and immediately removing any attached ticks. Because early treatment can avert serious complications, anyone bitten by a tick who develops rash or flulike symptoms should receive a medical evaluation for the possibility of Lyme disease or for ANTIBIOTIC PROPHYLAXIS (preventive antibiotic therapy).


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