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Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease (LD) is a multi-stage, multi-system bacterial infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, a spiral shaped bacterium that is most commonly transmitted by a tick bite. The disease takes its name from Lyme, Connecticut, where the illness was first identified in the United States in 1975.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease continues to be a rapidly emerging infectious disease, and is the leading cause of all insect-borne illness in the US. According to the CDC, LD cases more than doubled during the surveillance period of 1992 to 2006. In 2008, there were almost 29,000 confirmed cases and nearly 6,300 probable cases of LD.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

The list of possible symptoms is long, and symptoms can affect every part of the body. The following are the most common symptoms of Lyme disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

The primary symptom is a red rash that:

  • can appear several days after infection, or not at all.
  • can last a few hours or up to several weeks.
  • can be very small or very large (up to 12 inches across).
  • can mimic such skin problems as hives, eczema, sunburn, poison ivy, flea bites.
  • can itch or feel hot, or may not be felt at all.
  • can disappear and return several weeks later.

Several days or weeks after a bite from an infected tick, a patient usually experiences flu-like symptoms such as the following:

  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • low-grade fever and chills
  • fatigue
  • poor appetite
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands

After several months, arthritis-like symptoms may develop, including painful and swollen joints.

Other possible symptoms may include the following:

  • neurological symptoms
  • heart problems
  • skin disorders
  • eye problems
  • hepatitis
  • severe fatigue
  • limb weakness
  • poor motor coordination

Some people may develop post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS), a condition also known as chronic Lyme disease, characterized by persistent musculoskeletal and peripheral nerve pain, fatigue, and memory impairment.

Treatment for Lyme disease:

Specific treatment for Lyme disease will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the symptoms
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics for a period of four to six weeks.