What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a multisystem illness caused by infection with the microorganism, Borrelia burgdorferi, and the body’s immune response to its infection. The illness is transmitted from tick bites when the tick regurgitates the microorganism. Lyme disease is known as a “vector-borne disease.” Because the ticks are extremely small and their bites are painless, the biting event very often goes unnoticed.
Prognosis is excellent and most patients recover completely if treated early.
What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease?
There are three stages of Lyme disease:
Stage 1: Early localized disease
- Occurs one to 30 days after a tick bite
- Erythema migrans
- Untreated rash may persist for two to three weeks
- Approximately, half of the early disease patients have flu-like symptoms, which may resolve spontaneously:
Stage 2: Early disseminated disease
- Usually develops three to 10 weeks after the initial infection.
- One or more organ systems become involved through blood or lymphatic spread.
- General symptoms:
- Eye manifestations:
- Heart manifestations:
- Musculoskeletal manifestations (approximately 60% of patients present with musculoskeletal manifestations:
- Intermittent, migratory inflammatory arthritis which evolves over one to two days, involving single or multiple joints such as knee, ankle and wrist.
- First episode occurs within six months of the erythema migrans lesion
- Untreated, the episodes last approximately one week
- Patients have recurrences and may continue to have them over a 10-year period
- Nervous system manifestations:
- May occur two to 10 weeks after infection
- Encephalopathy (a broad term for any brain disease that alters brain function or structure)
- Meningitis (inflammation of the brain)
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
- Nerve paralysis like facial nerve palsy (Bell’s palsy)
- Disturbances in memory, concentration, mood, sleep, personality and/or language
- Skin manifestations:
- Multiple erythema migrans lesions are present
- Borrelial lymphocytoma (uncommon): bluish-red swelling that occurs on the lobe of the ear, scrotum, nose, and extremities.
Stage 3: Late disease
- If untreated, Lyme disease can progress to chronic Lyme disease or stage 3 of Lyme disease. Stage 3 Lyme disease occurs months to years after the initial infection or a period of latency. Most patients presenting with late disease do not have erythema migrans because the rash urges the patient to seek treatment earlier.
- Skin manifestation:
- Acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans: Found almost exclusively in patients of European descent. It commonly affects older women and is characterized by bluish-red discoloration on the back of the hands, feet, knees and elbows.
- Lyme arthritis:
- Typically involves one or a few large joints (knee is involved in 90% of cases).
- Severe inflammation and joint pain
- Nervous system abnormalities:
- Encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain)
- Neuropathy nerve paralysis
- Acute spinal disk disease
- Hemiparesis (weakness of one side of the body)
- Ataxia (loss of muscle coordination)
- Bladder dysfunction (loss of urinary control)
- Hearing loss
- Myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
- Paraparesis (paralysis of lower limbs)
- Quadriparesis (paralysis of all limbs)
Can Lyme disease be cured?
Prognosis is excellent and most patients recover completely if treated early. Appropriate oral or intravenous antibiotics can combat infection and provide symptomatic relief. Sometimes a recurrent infection can occur with certain strains, but can be managed well with medication. Co-infection by other organisms transmitted by the same tick bite can also occur which may require treatment. Careful examination of the body, especially hair-bearing areas to remove attached ticks is required.
- Personal and environmental measures to avoid ticks, mice and other insects.
- Removal of attached ticks from self, children and pets.
- Professional management of tick infestation at home.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Can Lyme Disease Be Cured Related Articles
Is Lyme Disease Contagious?Lyme disease may be transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tick. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes the disease and is passed to humans during a tick's blood meal. Lyme disease does not spread from person to person.
What Is Lyme Disease in Humans?Lyme disease is a bacterial illness, which is spread by ticks when they bite the skin. Initially the disease affects the skin causing a reddish rash associated with flu-like symptoms. It takes weeks to months after the initial redness of the skin for its effects to spread throughout the body. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Lyme disease can be prevented by using tick avoidance techniques.
Lyme Disease SlideshowWhat is Lyme disease? Learn about symptoms and testing for Lyme disease, whether it is curable, and signs of Lyme disease caused by tick bites. See pictures of Lyme disease rashes and ticks that carry Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease QuizWhat you do not know about Lyme disease may surprise you. Learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications of this arthritic condition with the Lyme Disease Quiz.
Lymepak (doxycycline hyclate)Lymepak is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of early Lyme disease due to a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi in adults and children 8 years of age and older weighing 99 pounds (lbs) (45 kg) and above. Serious side effects of Lymepak include harm to an unborn baby, harm to infants and children under 8 years of age, diarrhea, severe skin reactions, Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, and increased pressure around the brain.
What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Humans?Lyme disease is an infection that is transmitted by ticks and is the most common vector-borne disease in the US. It is caused by infection with the spiral-shaped bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi or Borrelia mayonii (rarely) that resides in the stomach of the ticks. The infected ticks of the genus Ixodes, commonly called black-legged deer ticks, transmit this disease to humans via tick bites.
What Will Make a Tick Back Out?The easiest and simplest way to make a tick back out is to detach it manually with tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly with tweezers and pull it out. Visit your doctor right away if you are not able to separate the tick from your body.