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Lyme disease is a disease spread by ticks, specifically the deer tick. Until recently it was only found in the Atlantic states, but now is becoming prevalent across a much wider area. You owe it to yourself to be aware of what the lyme disease symptoms in humans are.

The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is spread through the bite of infected ticks. The blacklegged tick (or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis) spreads the disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States, and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast.

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.

Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and difficult to see; they feed during the spring and summer months. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease bacteria, but they are much larger and may be more likely to be discovered and removed before they have had time to transmit the bacteria. Adult Ixodes ticks are most active during the cooler months of the year.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the U.S. In 2009, it was the 5th most common Nationally Notifiable disease. In 2010, 94% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 12 states:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

The initial lyme disease symptoms in humans are flu-like – fatigue, achy muscles or joints, fever, chills, stiff neck, swollen glands, and a headache. The only unique symptom is a bulls-eye rash. Many doctors use this rash as the key symptom when diagnosing lyme’s disease. Unfortunately, the rash doesn’t always present in the same way and may not be present at all. When it is present, the first bulls-eye usually appears around the site of the tick bite. The rash usually appears between 3 and 30 days after the bite. It may spread across the body. The rash isn’t always present and may be hidden from view if the bite occurred on a hairy area of the body.

lyme disease symptoms in humans - rsahWhile there are tests available for lyme disease, most of them are unreliable and often give false positives. If you watch House MD, you know that treatment is often more reliable for diagnosis than testing, and this is true of lyme disease as well. There is one of the lyme disease symptoms in humans that is completely reliable: treatment with doxycycline. It is simple, cheap and effective. If a patient is suspected of having lmye’s disease start him on doxycycline. If he improves he has it. If you don’t get a positive result then its something else.

All of the common lyme disease symptoms in humans have to do with the acute stage of the disease, which doesn’t seem to be too serious. If the disease is left untreated it becomes chronic and that’s where the trouble really begins. Lyme disease interacts with other diseases or predispositions and amplifies them. It can attack any area or organ system in the body. It may act like a bacterial disease or an auto-immune disease. This is very serious because once the other diseases are activated knocking out the lyme disease spirochettes won’t stop the disease. Missing one of the lyme disease symptoms in humans and allowing the disease to enter this chronic stage may cause a life-long debilitation.

Web resources for lyme disease symptoms in humans


Preventing Tick Bites

While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.

Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin

  • Use repellents that contain 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on the exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.
  • Other repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be found at http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/.External Web Site Icon

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

Lyme disease seems to be becoming more common. More likely the medical establishment is simply becoming more aware of the disease and how serious the long term effects can be, so more cases are being diagnosed. The list of lyme disease symptoms in humans hasn’t changed and the tests haven’t gotten any better, so its likely that doctors are more on the lookout for lyme’s today. This is one of those diseases that is easier to prevent than to treat, especially in the later stages.

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