A small red rash on the skin can often be mistaken for an allergy or an insect bite, which is often ignored. But it can be due to a tick bite, in which, it is important to consult a doctor at the earliest and get treated. Wondering why? Well, it could indicate Lyme disease. Although not common in India, the disease if left untreated can lead to the inflammation of the joints and the brain as well. Continue reading to know more about the disease.
Lyme disease is caused when a tick infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is usually found in animals, bites a healthy person.
One of the first tell-tale symptoms of Lyme disease is a skin rash at the site of the bite, which typically looks like a bull's eye on a dart board. Known as erythema migrans, it usually develops around three to 30 days after the tick bites. However, some people might not develop this skin rash. Other typical signs of a Lyme disease include -
These flu-like symptoms are often misunderstood to viral infections and hence, are not taken seriously, which further increases the risk of severe health complications.
The diagnosis of Lyme disease is often difficult as the symptoms are similar to that experienced in the case of viral infection or flu. However, in most cases, it is usually based on the symptoms. TO diagnose the condition, your doctor might conduct a physical examination to identify skin rash and ask you about the likelihood of exposure to infected ticks.
Other than this, your doctor might recommend blood tests like ELISA or Western blot to confirm the diagnosis. But this test should be done only after few weeks of infection, as it might lead to negative result when done after the initial week of the infection.
ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay): In this, the level of antibodies against the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease is measured.
Western blot: This test helps you to identify the antibodies which are developed against the proteins found on the bacteria. It is mostly recommended, if ELISA yields positive results or if you doctor wants to confirm the diagnosis.
In most cases, use of antibiotics like amoxicillin and doxycycline are found to be effective in treating the condition. These drugs not only speed up the healing process of the skin rash but also prevent the progression of the bacteria to other parts of the body thereby preventing joint pain and neurological problems. The duration and the course of antibiotics is dependent on the severity of the infection and hence, varies from person to person. Hence, it is wise to consult a doctor and follow his prescription without fail rather than self-medicating.
If the disease is left untreated, it may worsen further and affect the heart, joints and brain. Here are the advanced symptoms fo Lyme disease -
Inflammatory arthritis: As the infection spreads to the joints, it causes swelling and pain in the joint leading to inflammatory arthritis.
Nervous problems: If the bacteria affect the nervous system, it might show symptoms such as numbness and pain in the limbs, memory problems, difficulty in concentration and facial muscle paralysis.
Heart problems: It could also spread to the heart leading to inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), heart layer (pericarditis) or heart failure
Meningitis: The inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord leading to meningitis, which manifests as a severe headache, stiff neck and increased sensitivity to light.
As the cause of Lyme disease is known, Lyme disease can be prevented. And the effective way to prevent it is to avoid tick bite.
You can even use insect repellant and wear light-coloured clothes with full sleeves.
Avoid visiting areas that are infected with ticks and try to reduce tick habitat.
If you ever notice a tick, it is wise to remove it promptly to prevent tick bite.