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What is Lyme Disease?

By August 14, 2019Chronic Disease

Most people who are infected with Lyme disease recover with antibiotics. For many patients with Lyme disease, however, the symptoms of the disease persist for months later, resulting in debilitating pain, fatigue, and numerous other symptoms. If you were bitten by a tick and are experiencing any symptoms associated with Lyme disease, it is essential to learn more about this disease and to see a doctor about your options for treatment. You should also consider your eligibility for home healthcare services if your Lyme disease symptoms are making it difficult to manage activities of daily living.

Learning More About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which results in an infection. The disease is transmitted to humans through tick bites. In order to contract Lyme disease, a person must be bitten by an infected black-legged tick.

When you are bitten by a tick, it is important to remove the tick as promptly as possible. For most people, infection with Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Over the course of two to four weeks, most people recover. Yet as the CDC underscores, “if left untreated, an infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.” 

Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease

What signs and symptoms are present when a person has Lyme disease? Most commonly, one or more of the following signs or symptoms will appear after a tick bite: 

  • Fever;
  • Chills;
  • Headache;
  • Muscle and joint aches;
  • Swollen lymph nodes;
  • Fatigue; and/or
  • Skin rash is known as erythema migrans.

 If Lyme disease remains untreated, the CDC indicates that the following signs and symptoms may occur:

  • Severe headache;
  • Neck stiffness;
  • EM rashes on other parts of the body beyond where the tick bite occurred;
  • Facial palsy, or the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face;
  • Pain in the tendons, muscles, joints, and bones;
  • Heart palpitations, also known as Lyme carditis;
  • Dizziness;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Inflammation in the brain and spinal cord;
  • Nerve pain;
  • Shooting pains in the hands or feet;
  • Arthritis; and
  • Problems with short-term memory.

Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease occur anywhere from 3 to 30 days after a tick bite. Most people will experience some of the early symptoms listed above like fever, achy muscles or joints, or fatigue. Yet most frequently, in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all Lyme disease cases, people will experience the characteristic rash. Here is what you should know about the erythema migrans, or EM, rash:

  • Usually, about 70 percent to 80 percent of infected people will have the rash;
  • It begins at the site of where the tick bite occurred, usually after a delay of anywhere from 3 to 30 days, with an average of 7 days;
  • It expands gradually over many days, eventually reaching a diameter of about 12 inches or more;
  • The rash may be warm, but it is unlikely to itch or hurt;
  • It will sometimes have a “bulls-eye” appearance, or a “target” appearance, as it gets bigger; and
  • It can occur in any area of a person’s body.

Lyme Disease Symptoms May Persist More Often Than Most People Think

Although Lyme disease is curable, many people who are infected with Lyme disease experience symptoms that persist after the initial infection has been treated. This is known commonly as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome or PTLDS. According to the CDC, the reason that some patients—and not others—experience PTLDS is not known. Moreover, according to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Medicine, PTLDS also may be more common than most people think it is.

That study determined that Lyme disease symptoms persist in a high percentage of people who have completed treatment for the initial infection even though they have physical exams that appear to be normal and laboratory testing that does not show abnormalities. Indeed, many people with Lyme disease continue to experience pain, fatigue, insomnia, and depression for particularly long periods of time after the infection has been treated.

 Dr. John N. Aucott, the director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center and an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine underscored that “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome . . . is a real disorder that causes severe symptoms in the absence of clinically detectable infection.” To be clear, patients experience severe symptoms associated with Lyme disease for months following the infection, even if their lab work does not show any signs of the disease itself.

Seek Help Managing Your Lyme Disease Symptoms

When Lyme disease symptoms persist after treatment, a person may be experiencing Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome or other complications from the infection. These symptoms can be disabling and can make it difficult to manage your own health and well-being. You should learn more about whether you may be eligible to receive free home health services through United Energy Workers Healthcare. Qualified EEOICPA & RECA beneficiaries may be able to have free professional home care to help manage medications, therapies, and other home healthcare services.