General Practice, Primary Care Doctor, Holistic Therapy

Lyme disease

Introduction to Lyme disease

Lyme disease is an infection from a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that is transferred from being bitten by an infected tick.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection from a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that is transferred from being bitten by an infected tick. The majority of people affected are outdoor workers and those who live in the countryside, as this is where ticks are found. It can affect people of all ages and gender. Ticks are small insects that feed by biting the skin and sucking the blood from humans and animals and therefore can transfer bacteria such as the one that causes Lyme disease. Most ticks in the UK are not infected and therefore most tick bites do not cause Lyme disease. When a tick bites a human it clings on to the skin and then swells with blood. It usually takes around 24-48 hours for the bacteria to enter the human from an infected tick so it is therefore important to remove the tick within 24 hours to reduce the chance of contracting Lyme disease. Ticks are small and usually don’t hurt when they bite so many people don’t notice being bitten by a tick.

What causes Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection from a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that is transferred from being bitten by an infected tick. When a tick bites a human it clings on to the skin and then swells with blood. It usually takes around 24-48 hours for the bacteria to enter the human from an infected tick so it is therefore important to remove the tick within 24 hours to reduce the chance of contracting Lyme disease. Ticks are small and usually don’t hurt when they bite so many people don’t notice being bitten by a tick.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Stage 1 of the infection is caused by an early reaction to the skin infection. A skin rash develops from 3-36 days after being bitten by an infected tick. The rash is usually red and circular in nature and spreads outwards over time. As it spreads outwards the inner part of the circle forms a paler area which gives a characteristic target appearance called a ‘bullseye’ rash. The rash is usually bigger than 5cm and fades over 3-4 weeks. Flu like symptoms also develop in some people. This includes headache, fever, chills, joint aches and tiredness. If the infection is not treated or the immune system has not cleared by the immune system the infection progresses to stage 2.

Stage 2 can develop weeks or months after the bite. The infection spreads from site of original infection to around the body that can cause a number of symptoms. These include: Joint problems – joint pain and arthritis; Heart problems – myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) causing chest pain, dizziness and breathlessness; Nerve and brain problems – inflammation to the nerves around the face causing weakness and inflammation of tissues in or around the brain causing meningitis or encephalitis; Rash similar to the rash in stage 1 that can develop anywhere on the body

Stage 3 may develop months to years after infection and include a wide range of symptoms. Common symptoms include confusion, memory loss, poor concentration, tiredness, joint pains and personality change.

How is Lyme disease treated?

Antibiotic medication is usually taken for 2 weeks after a diagnosis of Lyme disease has been made. Doxycycline or amoxicillin is the usual antibiotic of choice. A General Practitioner can prescribe this medication and remove the tick if it is still attached.

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