Lyme Disease FAQs
Reviewed by );">William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, on November 23, 2010
- What is Lyme disease?
- Lyme disease is contagious. True or False?
- Where are you most likely to contract Lyme disease?
- Where do ticks carry the Lyme bacterium?
- Where was Lyme disease first identified?
- What are early Lyme disease symptoms?
- The characteristic Lyme disease rash looks like what?
- What are the effects of late-stage Lyme disease?
- How do doctors diagnose Lyme disease?
- Which drug is used to treat early stage Lyme disease?
- How can Lyme disease be prevented?
- Improve your Health I.Q. on Lyme Disease
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Q:What is Lyme disease?
A:Lyme disease is a bacterial illness. It is caused by a bacterium called a "spirochete."
Q:Lyme disease is contagious. True or False?
A:False. Lyme disease is not transmitted from an affected person to someone else. Therefore, Lyme disease is not contagious.
Q:Where are you most likely to contract Lyme disease?
A:Hiking. You are more like to get Lyme disease as a result of hiking. This is because ticks generally cling to plants near the ground in brushy, wooded, or grassy places. The edges of woodlands and leaf litter are high-risk areas. The ticks, which cannot jump or fly, climb onto animals and people who brush against plants.
Q:Where do ticks carry the Lyme bacterium?
A:Ticks carry the Lyme bacterium in their stomachs.
Ticks are slow feeders, often taking days to feed. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. Removing ticks promptly can reduce the risk of Lyme disease.
Q:Where was Lyme disease first identified?
A:Research leading to the discovery of Lyme disease began in 1975 when mothers of a group of children who lived near each other in Lyme, Connecticut, made researchers aware their children had all been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
This unusual grouping of illness that appeared "rheumatoid" eventually led researchers to the identification of the bacterial cause of the children's condition, which was then called "Lyme disease" in 1982.
Q:What are early Lyme disease symptoms?
A:As the bacteria spread in the skin away from the initial tick bite, the infection causes an expanding reddish rash that is often accompanied by "flu-like" symptoms including fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Q:The characteristic Lyme disease rash looks like what?
A:The characteristic Lyme disease rash looks like a bull's eye. In the early phase of the illness, within days to weeks of the tick bite, the skin around the bite develops an expanding ring of unraised redness. There may be an outer ring of brighter redness and a central area of clearing, leading to a "bull's-eye" appearance.
Q:What are the effects of late-stage Lyme disease?
A:The effects of late-stage Lyme disease can include heart failure, Bell's palsy and arthritis. The later phases of Lyme disease can affect the heart, causing inflammation of the heart muscle. This can result in abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. The nervous system can develop facial muscle paralysis (Bell's palsy), abnormal sensation due to disease of peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy), meningitis, and confusion. Inflammation in the joints (arthritis) begins with swelling, stiffness, and pain, and particularly affects one knee.
Q:How do doctors diagnose Lyme disease?
A: In early Lyme disease, doctors can sometimes make a diagnosis simply by finding the classic red rash. Currently, the confirmatory test that is most reliable is the Western Blot assay antibody test.
Q:Which drug is used to treat early stage Lyme disease?
Q:How can Lyme disease be prevented?
A:Lyme disease may be prevented in the following ways: Spray insect repellant containing DEET onto exposed skin. Wear long pants tucked into boots and long sleeves. Bathe the skin and scalp and wash clothing upon returning home. Because Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks attaching to the body, it is important to use tick-bite avoidance techniques when visiting known tick areas. Spraying insect repellant containing DEET onto exposed skin can help. Wearing long pants tucked into boots and long sleeves can protect the skin. Clothing, children, and pets should be examined for ticks. Ticks can be removed gently with tweezers and saved in a jar for later identification. Bathing the skin and scalp and washing clothing upon returning home might prevent the bite and transmission of the disease.
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