Lyme disease can be debilitating. Fortunately, there are treatment options.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is transmitted by 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 many cases of Lyme disease occured in the 1970s. Heavily wooded and grassy areas are 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. Later symptoms of Lyme disease include joint pain, especially in the knees. Swelling may also affect any joint. 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 even years after the infection. Less commonly, patients with Lyme disease may have liver and eye inflammation, heart problems, or severe fatigue.1 It is important to note that some people don’t experience the initial hallmark bull’s-eye rash or any rash. This could lead to misdiagnosis. Delays in treatment, however, can lead to serious, permanent, disabling symptoms.2
The best way to prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses (i.e., Rocky Mountain spotted fever), is to avoid exposure to ticks. There is no longer a vaccine for Lyme disease, and protection from this vaccine likely has expired for those who used it. To prevent tick exposure, people should avoid heavily wooded and grassy areas, walking on trails instead. There are repellents on the market with 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 tick check of the body and head. Drying clothes on high heat for a long time (about an hour) kills ticks as well. In the yard, mowing frequently, raking leaves, discouraging rodents, and using wood chips or gravel around play equipment can also prevent ticks.3 If a tick is found, 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). The area of the skin should then be cleaned with iodine, rubbing alcohol, or soap and water. If the patient gets a rash or flu-like symptoms within weeks of the tick bite, professional care should be sought.4
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for Lyme disease. If the disease is not treated early, joint pain and neurological symptoms can follow. Some patients have symptoms despite antibiotics: 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.6
Learn more about other vector-borne illnesses.