Sunny days and spring attract us to spend more time in the green areas in nature. But as the temperature rises, the activity of ticks also increases and it may transmit various infectious diseases, including the Lyme disease. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with the symptoms of the disease and with the way of protection against tick bites.
What is lyme disease and how can it be transmitted?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that belong to the genus Borrelia: Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii. This disease is transmitted to people through bite of an infected tick. Therefore, the spreading of the disease is associated with the period when the ticks are most active, i.e from early spring to late autumn.
Bacterium can be found in different animals, including dogs, deers, cattles, birds, rodents and so on.
Symptoms of the Lyme disease
The clinical picture of the Lyme disease consists three successive phases:
In the first phase, Erythema chronicum migrans occurs. This change may occur in a period of 3 to 30 days after the body is infected with this bacteria. It is a specific rash that doesn’t itch. It is manifested as a clearly restricted circular or oval rash, with a raised center and it increases over several days or weeks reaching a diameter up to 20-30 centimeters. The rash usually appears at the bite place and in most cases the bite is located in the lower extremities, particularly the lower leg. As the infection spreads, a similar rash may occur on the other parts of the body as well.
Despite Erythema chronicum migrans, in the first phase, there may also occur other symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, stiff neck, headache, fatigue, malaise and pain in the joints.
If Erythema chronicum migrans stays untreated, the phase can last 3-4 weeks.
Several weeks or months after the primary stage (which is manifested in 50-70% of the cases) there occurs a secondary stage. Symptoms of this stage are:
– Dermal manifestations similar to the first stage, and this time not only at the bite place, but also at the other parts of the body;
– Articular manifestations – arthritis of the large joints;
– Neurological manifestations – encephalitis, myelitis, meningitis, facial nerve lesions and meningoradiculitis accompanied by strong night pains at the bite place.
– Cardiac manifestations – (A-V block) inflammation of the myocardium and pericardium.
These symptoms can occur together or separated.
If the disease is not treated, the last and the most serious tertiary stage comes. This stage is manifested in about 10% of patients. Symptoms include:
– Chronic atrophic acrodermatitis;
– Changes in mood;
– Tingling in arms, legs and back;
– Pain in the muscles and joints;
– Inability to control facial muscles.
How to treat Lyme disease?
Since it is a bacterial infectious disease, antibiotic treatment is neeeded. Depending on the stage the disease is diagnosed, appropriate antibiotics are given (amoxicillin, doxycycline, ceftriaxone, etc.). The antibiotic can be swallowed orally (if the disease is detected at an early stage) or parenterally (if the disease is detected at a later stage).
How to protect yourself from a tick bite?
The best way to protect yourself from Lyme disease is to take the appropriate preventive measures. Follow these tips when you are out in the nature:
– Take a walk on clearly marked trails and avoid movement in areas where there is tall grass;
– Wear closed shoes;
– If you have long hair, gather it;
– If you walk through a forest or grasslands, wear bright clothes with long sleeves and trousers so it would be easier for you to see ticks;
– Place some means against ticks on clothing and socks. NOTE: Despite their efficiency, these means can cause serious side effects, especially if they reach high concentrations. Not recommendeded for use in children and babies;
– After nature activities, make sure you check the entire body if there is accidentally attached tick. Besides the body, thoroughly check the clothes as well;
– After that, take a shower;
– Wash your hair with a shampoo if you suspect that there is an attached tick.
This advices are especially recommended for pregnant women, because the infection can be transmitted to the fetus and, consequently, miscarriage is likely to occur.
Infected tick transmits the disease to a man at the moment when it starts to feed itself with the blood. It usually occurs after 24 hours of the tick’s attachment. Therefore, it is very important to make a detailed review of your body after the activities in nature and if there is an attached tick, to remove it immediately.
NOTE : Lyme disease has variable symptoms for one patient. The clinical picture shows a wide range of other diseases. So, if you have a tick bite, make sure you visit the doctor immediately in order to do an appropriate laboratory tests, and if it’s necessary, take the appropriate treatment.