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Lyme disease, is caused by the Borrelia bacterium. It is an infectious disease, spread through ticks or other insects. Most cases of Lyme disease are spread through the adult deer tick. However, the nymphal deer tick is also a common source of the spread.
Lyme disease is spread to humans through black legged ticks. It is the most common vector borne disease in the United States alone. If gone untreated, Lyme disease can cause a wide range of symptoms and issues for the infected. These range from feelings of tiredness and fatigue to rashes and in some cases, the infected person might even become paralysed. Early signs and symptoms include, headaches, chills, fever, muscle and joint pains and even swollen lymph nodes. Around 70-80% of the infected population, complain of getting rashes around their body.
This infection starts with a tick bite and over the course of 3 to 30 days, the infection spreads all over the body. Within the first week of the bite, a rash will form on the infected area. This rash will be very large and red and will mostly be in the shape of a small red circle, enclosed within another red circle. The rash may hurt and might cause irritation to the infected person. It may also be warm to touch. The rash will start off small and over the course of the 30-day time period, will gradually expand, enlarging itself to upto 12 inches in diameter.
Other symptoms of the disease include, swollen joints, such as knees; severe headache and even stiffness in the neck. This shows that the infection has started to spread to other parts of the body. The infected person will feel very tired and have trouble moving or doing even the simplest of tasks.
The infected will feel a loss of breath as well as irregular heartbeat and any form of physical exertion may prove difficult for them. In more severe cases, the infection can spread to the nerves and the spinal cord, causing nerve pain and inflammation in the brain and the spine. This in turn, could possibly cause facial palsy as the nerves of the infected start to become infected as well. Many have reported, feeling sharp pains in their feet and legs as well as numbness in their hands. The severity of the infection will vary from patient to patient, depending on the severity of the bite, how the infection is spread and how quickly the disease was diagnosed and treated.
The above mentioned symptoms should be enough to scare anyone. Therefore, it is pertinent that one gets themselves tested as soon as possible. However, before considering getting tested or the possibility of someone having the disease, it is important to take some factors into consideration, including the possibility of someone being bit by a black legged tick or not. This happens mostly when people go hiking in the woods or sleep without a sleeping tent or net. If you have not ventured out in the wild or have not left the comfort of your home, the possibility of you being infected is highly unlikely.
Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends essentially two steps for testing Lyme disease, both of which involve a blood sample testing. Therefore, in order to ensure whether you have Lyme Disease or not getting a blood test done is important.
Most Lyme Disease Tests are conducted to see whether the body has made antibodies in order to fight the infection or not. Since antibodies take time to develop, there is a possibility that the test may result in a false negative for the infected.
The two most common preferred tests are the Wetern Blot and the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In both of these tests, technicians search for antibody development in the blood or parts of the bacteria, for Lyme disease. Both of these are indicators of whether the patient has Lyme Disease or not.
There are however, a few limitations of such blood tests, namely, the fact that the patient could be suspected of having the disease and if recommended by the doctor to get the test done, it could possibly lead to a false negative. A false negative occurs when the patient has been tested too early for the antibodies to be detected by the test, and therefore, resulting in the conclusion that the infection is not present. This can prove to be dangerous as a false negative can cause a doctor to rule out the possibility of Lyme Disease and therefore move towards a different path. This can prove to be costly for the patient in both monetary and health terms as resources and time will be wasted.
However, if you feel that you are infected and have Lyme Disease and you have recently visited woody areas, it is likely that you may have this disease. Moreover, if you are showing some of the above mentioned symptoms, especially a bulls-eye type rash, please consult a doctor soon.
Sarwat Makkani, MD
Yanelquis Torres, MD
Fabiola Baptiste, NP
Raga Mohamed Ali Osman
Ayesha Aslam Mughal
Sipra Talvikki Autio