(Source: NIH / Medline Plus) Lyme disease is a bacterial infection you get from the bite of an infected tick. The first symptom is usually a rash, which may look like a bull's eye (although some people never get the tell-tale bullseye rash).
Symptoms of lyme disease
As the infection spreads, you may have
- A fever
- A headache
- Muscle and joint aches
- A stiff neck
Diagnosing lyme disease
Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose because you may not have noticed a tick bite. Also, many of its symptoms are like those of the flu and other diseases. In the early stages, your health care provider will look at your symptoms and medical history, to figure out whether you have Lyme disease. Lab tests may help at this stage, but may not always give a clear answer. In the later stages of the disease, a different lab test can confirm whether you have it.
Treating lyme disease
Antibiotics can cure most cases of Lyme disease. The sooner treatment begins, the quicker and more complete the recovery.
After treatment, some patients may still have muscle or joint aches and nervous system symptoms. This is called post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS). Long-term antibiotics have not been shown to help with PLDS. However, there are ways to help with the symptoms of PLDS, and most patients do get better with time.
Key Point 1
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by microscopic bacteria carried by ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic bullseye skin rash but these symptoms are not always evident or can be overlooked. Labaratory testing can be an important tool in the diagnosis of Lyme disease but not the only method.
Key Point 2
Most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Late diagnosis can lead to other more serious complications such as arthritis and autoimmune responses. While there are effective treatments, it is important to take precautions to prevent Lyme disease such as using insect repellent, examining yourself, remvoving ticks promptly and reducing tick habitat.