3 Things You Should Know About Lyme Sisease
I just traveled back east (which nobody calls it there, they just call it home) and was slightly terrified of being bit by a tick and contracting Lyme disease. I’ve learned that it can be a pretty terrible disease, especially if you don’t catch it in time. So, I thought it best to do some research to make sure I could be as prepared as possible if it did happen. While it isn’t as prevalent here on the west coast, it can still happen and I feel that everyone should be aware of it. Here’s what I found that might be good to know.
1. It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is often carried by deer ticks most often found in the eastern United States. The ticks feed on blood to survive, and are very clever little insects. They are commonly found in grass or other greenery where they hang on to the top of the plant with their hind legs, and leave their front legs up just waiting to catch on to an unwilling host. If you are bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, it may show up as a characteristic bullseye rash in the area of the bite.
2. The bacteria have a special property that allows them to change their antigen. An antigen is typically a protein that the immune system recognizes as foreign. This is why Lyme disease can be so difficult to treat, because once your immune system thinks it knows what it is dealing with, the bacteria changes its look. It’s kind of like a costume that constantly changes. Additionally, it is highly possible to get a false negative if testing for Lyme.
3. It can go undiagnosed for years. While 30,000 cases are reported annually to the CDC, it is estimated that there are actually 329,000 new cases each year. Be sure to know what some of the typical symptoms are so that you can recognize it if it happens to you. Some common early stages of Lyme disease include symptoms such as fever, headache, and muscle pain. Later stage symptoms can consist of arthritis, carditis, persistent neurological malfunction, memory loss, and Bell’s Palsy, which is characterized by the loss of muscle tone in the face. While these are typical symptoms, Lyme disease can really manifest in many different ways depending on the person.
According to my microbiology professor, it typically takes 24 hours of the tick feeding off of you to deliver the dose of the bacteria that is disease causing, however it is best to avoid if possible or check for ticks immediately after outdoor activity. Also, ticks love pets just as much as humans, so check your furry friends after a walk or letting them outside. Be sure to see your physician should you think you have contracted Lyme disease.
Disclaimer: I am not a physician or a health care practitioner. This site is not meant to provide medical or health advice of any kind. Do not misconstrue any information that you read here as medical recommendation, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided here on this site is intended to serve as a communication of my experiences and to share articles and public material pertaining to health that I come across. It should in no way be interpreted as medical advice of any kind.