About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by a variety of different species of ticks including deer ticks, and by black-legged ticks on the West Coast. In recent studies, it has shown that up to 30% of mosquitos may carry and transmit the Lyme bacteria, along with biting flies, and possibly spiders. While most people may think that Lyme is an East Coast disease, it is found throughout the United States, as well as in more than sixty other countries.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 300,000 people each year are diagnosed with Lyme disease. That’s 6 times the number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS each year and 1.5 times the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. However, many people who actually have Lyme may be misdiagnosed with other conditions. This is because diagnosing Lyme can be extremely difficult. Many experts believe the true number of cases is much higher.
LymeDisease.org has designed a symptom checklist to help you document your symptoms and possible exposure for your healthcare provider. You will receive a report that you can print out and take with you to your next appointment.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium (spirochete) called Borrelia burgdorferi. Because Lyme’s symptoms mimic many other diseases, Lyme is called “The Great Imitator,”. It can pretty much affect any organ including the brain and nervous system, joints and muscles, and the heart.
It is very common for patients with Lyme disease to be misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression. This misdiagnosis may delay the correct diagnosis and treatment as Lyme can progress unchecked and can become a chronic illness.
How do people get Lyme disease?
Most people get Lyme from the bite of a tick, but Lyme disease is occurring in parts of the country where there are no ticks. This leads scientists to believe that mosquitos, biting flies, and spiders carry the disease. Because a tick bite is painless, and ticks are so tiny, many people do not even know that they have been bitten.
Once a tick has attached to the body, and if left undisturbed, it may feed for several days. Longer the tick stays attached, the more likely it will transmit the Lyme and co-infections into the body.
If a pregnant woman is infected, they sometimes pass Lyme disease to their unborn children. Because the Lyme bacteria is a spirochete similar to Syphilis, some doctors believe that human-to-human transmission are possible, but not known for certain.
Lyme Disease Stages & Symptoms
Lyme disease symptoms in its early stage may present itself as a flu-like illness (chills, sweats, fever, muscle aches, joint pain, fatigue, and nausea) Some patients develop a rash or Bell’s palsy (facial drooping). While a bull's eye shaped rash is a known characteristic of a Lyme infection, a majority of people may develop a different kind of rash or none at all. It is estimated that patients who develop a Lyme rash vary widely, ranging from 30% to 80%. However, some scientists argue that a distinctive rash occurs in less than 10% of those who contract the disease.
A rash may start a few days or even several weeks after the bite and then may expand to several inches across in the upcoming days or weeks, with a possible central clearing that can last for weeks before fading. The rash may have an irregular shape, or blistering while others may look like a bruise or resemble spider bites, ringworm, or cellulitis.
Late- Stage Symptoms / Chronic Lyme Disease
If Lyme disease goes unchecked or inadequately treated, it may affect any part of the body. Late-Stage symptoms may include fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, cognitive impairment, poor sleep, mood problems, and neurological problems. Because of this, Lyme disease symptoms can significantly overlap those of chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. Majority of Lyme patients are often misdiagnosed with a different illness before being properly diagnosed with Lyme disease.
If not diagnosed and treated early, the Lyme spirochetes can spread and may go into hiding throughout the body. Weeks, months or even years after infection, patients may develop problems with the muscles and joints, brain and nervous system, digestion, heart and circulation, skin, reproductive system. Symptoms may mysteriously come and go even without treatment and different symptoms can appear at different times. Some people develop severe symptoms that are hard to resolve if left untreated or undertreated.