What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease can be a very debilitating condition for patients. Fortunately, there are treatment options available for those who suffer from the disease. Lyme disease is transmitted by the bites of ticks in Europe and North America. Deer ticks can carry particular bacteria and transmit Lyme disease when they are feeding. The North American bacterium is Borrelia burgdorferi, but the disease itself is named after Lyme, Connecticut, where a very significant number of documented cases of Lyme disease occurred in the 1970s. Heavily wooded and grassy areas are the natural habitats where ticks are most likely found.
It is best to seek early treatment when Lyme disease is suspected. The first symptom is typically a bull’s-eye rash that appears around the site of the tick bite. This rash is called erythema migrans. Patients would then, also within the first month of infection, experience flu-like symptoms, such as aches, chills, fatigue, and fever. The distinctive rash and symptoms are the first major signs and, hopefully, educated patients will know to seek medical attention before the symptoms are allowed to progress and worsen. Later symptoms of Lyme disease include joint pain, especially in the knees. Swelling may also affect any joint in the body. Neurological problems are also possible. Bell’s palsy, meningitis, limb weakness and numbness, and muscle movement impairments are some of the issues that could occur any time, even years, after the initial infection.
Less Common Effects
Less commonly, patients with Lyme disease may experience symptoms of liver and eye inflammation, heart problems, or severe fatigue.1 It is important to note that some people do not experience the initial hallmark bull’s-eye rash or any rash. Their knowledge of their own condition would be more likely based on the flu-like symptoms and the presence of a tick on the body. This lack of the distinctive bull’s-eye rash could lead to misdiagnosis. Delays in treatment, however, can lead to serious, permanent, disabling symptoms as the disease is allowed to continue its influence on the patient’s body.2
Avoid exposure outdoors
The best way to prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, including the likes of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, is to avoid exposure to ticks. There is no longer a vaccine available for the prevention of Lyme disease. Preexisting protection from this vaccine from past exposure has likely expired for those who used it. To prevent tick exposure, people should avoid heavily wooded and grassy areas. Walking on well-established trails reduces the patient’s chance of coming in contact with the places in which ticks like to hide. There are repellents available on the market which contain ingredients like DEET and permethrin. Some clothing is pretreated with these products as well.
When coming indoors…
it would be useful to shower or bathe and conduct a complete tick check of the body and head. Ticks will literally find any place to attach themselves, so the investigation of every area of the body needs to be very thorough. In some, but not all, cases, the presence of the tick on the skin will cause a sensation of itchiness, but this feeling should not be the sole method used to discover ticks. Adults should assist children and pets, as the former are likely to do a less than thorough job and the latter are unable to do more than scratch at the itchy area. Drying clothes on high heat for a long time (about an hour) kills any ticks which might have become attached but not yet made their way to the skin as well.
In the yard…
Mowing the grass frequently, raking leaves, discouraging rodents, and using wood chips or gravel around play equipment can also prevent ticks.3 If a tick has been found on the body, tweezers should be used to remove it. It is necessary to pull the tick out as close to the surface of the skin as is possible, with an upward movement (not twisting). Then clean the area of the skin with iodine, rubbing alcohol, or soap and water. If the patient gets a rash or flu-like symptoms within weeks of the tick bite, seek professional care immediately just in case the tick was able to introduce a dangerous disease.4
Lyme Disease Treatment Options
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for Lyme disease which has already developed. Failure to treat the disease early might allow joint pain and neurological symptoms to follow. Some patients still continue to experience symptoms despite the antibiotic treatment. This is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).5 Chiropractic can help treat these ongoing problems. Some of the care options that chiropractors offer include nutrition education, therapeutic adjustments, and exercise. This holistic approach can help to support a healthy immune system and fight off the dangers which have been introduced into the body.6
Learn more about other vector-borne illnesses.