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Lyme Disease


Disease: Lyme Disease Lyme Disease
Category: Infectious diseases
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Disease Definition:

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness, which is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdofreri. The disease could be harbored and spread by deer ticks, which feed on the blood of animals and humans. The signs and symptoms of this disease range from fever, chills, body aches, rash to weakness, joint swelling and even temporary paralysis.

The ticks that carry this disease breed in grassy and heavily wooded areas. In case someone lives or spends time in those areas, their chances of developing Lyme disease will increase. Because of this, in the areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, people should take some common-sense precautions.

Even though some people with Lyme disease may have recurring or lingering symptoms long after the infection has cleared, they recover completely in case the disease has been treated in its early stages and with appropriate antibiotics.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Lyme disease could affect different parts of the body; and because of this, the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease vary widely. Some of the common signs and symptoms include:

At the site of the tick bite, which usually occurs in the groin, belt area or behind the knee, a small, red bump may appear that could feel mildly tender and warm to the touch. This redness will expand over the next few days, and start forming a rash that could be as large as 30 centimeters across (12 inches) or as small as a fingertip. This rash is one of the characteristics of Lyme disease and affects about 70 to 80% of infected people. It is called erythema migrans and looks like a bull's-eye, with a red center and a red ring that surrounds a clear area.
Redness could develop at the site of a tick bite in case a person is allergic to tick saliva. However, this redness is not the same as erythema migrans, because it usually fades within a week, while erythema migrans tends to get redder over time and expand.

Flu-like symptoms:
The rash mentioned above could be accompanied by a fever, body aches, a headache, fatigue and chills.

Neurological problems:
In some cases, after weeks, months or even years of an untreated infection, a person could develop numbness or weakness in their limbs, impaired muscle movement, temporary paralysis of one side of the face , a condition called Bell's palsy, or meningitis, which is the inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain. Some of the other signs and symptoms of late-stage Lyme disease may include changes in mood or sleep habits, memory loss or difficulty concentrating.

Migratory joint pain:
Several weeks to months after a person has been infected, they may develop bouts of severe joint pain and swelling if they leave the infection untreated. Even though the pain could shift from one joint to another, the knees are the most commonly affected joints.

Less common signs and symptoms:
Severe fatigue, hepatitis and eye inflammation are some of the less common symptoms that could occur. Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) could develop in some people after a few weeks of the infection, but it usually doesn't last more than a few days or weeks.

Not everyone with Lyme disease will experience all of these signs and symptoms.


Ticks feed on blood; they attach themselves to a host and don't stop feeding until they are several times bigger than their normal size. In case a tick carries disease-producing bacteria, it transmits them to a healthy host during feeding. But if the host is already infected, they may pick up the bacteria.
Deer ticks, which carry the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that causes Lyme disease, are brown and almost impossible to spot, because they are no bigger than the head of a pin. In the areas where Lyme disease is common, the Borrelia burgdorferi could be present in as many as 50% of the deer ticks.
Deer ticks live in wooded areas where there are low bushes and tall grasses, and wait for warm-blooded animals to pass by. Being most active in the summer, deer ticks usually feed on the blood of deers, mice and small birds, but they could also feed on the blood of horses, cats, dogs and humans.
So, someone has to be bitten by an infected tick to contract Lyme disease. Through that bite, the bacteria will enter the person’s skin and make their way into the bloodstream. The deer tick must take a blood meal before the bacteria could be transmitted, which could take more than 48 hours. The bacteria can be transmitted only by ticks that are attached to the skin and are feeding. When someone sees an attached tick that has a swollen appearance, it will probably mean that enough time has passed to transmit the bacteria. The infection could be prevented by removing the tick as soon as possible.

Some of the risk factors for Lyme disease may include:

Spending time in wooded or grassy areas:
Deer ticks thrive in areas that are heavily wooded. Children who play outdoors a lot are at great risk of Lyme disease. So are those who have outdoor occupations or those who live in places where mice are common because deer ticks feed on mice, which are the primary reservoir of the bacteria of Lyme disease.

Having exposed skin:
In case a person is in an area where ticks are common, they should protect themselves and their children by wearing long sleeves and long pants because ticks attach easily to bare flesh. People should also not allow their pets to wander in tall weeds and grasses because those are the places where deer ticks thrive.

Not removing ticks promptly or properly:
Only if a tick stays attached to someone’s skin for 48 hours or longer can bacteria from a tick bite enter the bloodstream. Someone’s chances of acquiring Lyme disease will be low if they remove a tick within two days.



In case Lyme disease is left untreated it could cause:


  • Arrhythmias, which are heart rhythm irregularities
  • Changes in mood or sleep habits
  • Neuropathy, facial palsy or other neurological symptoms
  • Memory loss
  • Lyme arthritis, also called chronic joint inflammation, particularly of the knee.
  • Cognitive defects, such as impaired memory
  • Difficulty concentrating


The standard treatment for early-stage Lyme disease is oral antibiotics. Usually, these drugs clear the infection and prevent complications. Even though some studies have suggested that a 10- to 14- day course is quite effective, usually, a 14- to 21- day course is recommended. Some serious complications have been linked with longer treatment with oral antibiotics. Some examples are doxycycline for adults and children that are older than 8, or amoxicillin or cefuroxime for adults, pregnant or breast-feeding women and younger children.

A person may be recommended treatment with an intravenous antibiotic for 14 to 28 days in case their condition has progressed. Even though this treatment could take some time to treat the symptoms, it's quite effective in eliminating the infection. Mild to severe diarrhea, a lower white blood cell count and gallstones are some of the side effects of intravenous antibiotics.

Bismacine, which is an injectable compound prescribed by some alternative medicine practitioners to treat Lyme disease, should be avoided by consumers and health care providers, as suggested by the FDA. Bismacine, which is also known as chromacine, contains high levels of a metal called bismuth. Bismuth is not approved for use as an injectable form, or as a treatment for Lyme disease because it could cause bismuth poisoning, leading to kidney and heart failure. However, bismuth is safely used in some oral medications for stomach ulcers.


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