Lyme disease gets its name from Old Lyme, Connecticut where the disease was initially diagnosed in 1975 after a number of children were found to have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a very strange occurrence. In researching the symptoms of Lyme disease, doctors learned that it is transmitted when people are bitten by ticks, notably the deer tick, which is very small and can often go unnoticed when biting the skin.
The clinical name for the spiral shaped bacterium which causes Lyme disease is Borrelia burgdorferi, and is named after the researcher who discovered it, Willy Burgdorfer. Some people suffer long-term effects from Lyme disease symptoms and often feel incapacitated, until the disease is properly diagnosed and treated with medications.
In the United States, Lyme disease is commonly found in the North East and Midwest, with over 90% of cases reported in these nine states: Rhode Island, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash called Erythema migrans, near the area of the tick bite. The rash is noticeable in 3-30 days after the tick bite and is usually round, reddish-colored and grows in diameter.
Other symptoms of Lyme disease in the early stage are like the flu:
- stiff neck
- painful joints
- chills and fever
- swelling of the lymph nodes
- throbbing headache
- body aches
Over a short period of time, symptoms of Lyme disease can worsen and may include:
- nervous system issues
- arthritis and arthritic symptoms
- extensive pain in the knees
In the first few days to weeks following the tick bite, Lyme disease may cause neurological complications, such as meningitis, a disease that attacks the lining around the brain and spinal column (known as the meninges), and may also cause Bell’s palsy, a disease that weakens muscles of the face as a result of nerve damage. Lyme disease may also trigger carditis, an inflammatory reaction in the heart muscle that produces abnormal heart rhythms along with fainting or lightheadedness
Several months or even years after Lyme disease has an effect on the heart, some changes are still visible on an electrocardiogram (EKG) whether or not there are symptoms of Lyme disease. Another long-term effect may include arthritis, typically a chronic arthritis that frequently has an effect on a single knee or occurrences of inflammation or puffiness in joints, which is known as migratory arthritis.
Lyme disease may be transferred between animals, and from an animal to a human, and may be transmitted under natural or normal conditions. The bacterium may not be transferred from human to human. The infected tick will insert the bacteria into the bloodstream upon biting the host to extract blood.
Lyme disease is responsible for more than 90% of all reported host-to-host diseases in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attributes the increasing number of cases to the increase in size of deer herds within the concentrated area that Lyme disease is commonly reported.
Only a few individuals (fewer than 1%) who contract West Nile virus end up being gravely ill. They are normally older than 50 years of age and have a higher risk of contracting a more critical variety of infection, for example encephalitis or meningitis.
If you or a loved one experience any of these Lyme disease symptoms after being near wooded areas or having been bitten by a tick, immediate care by your family doctor or at a hospital emergency room is required.