An estimated 300,000 people are infected with Lyme disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given the high incidence of this disease, as well as the fact that anyone is susceptible to it, it is important to be as informed as possible about this condition.
You have probably heard about Lyme disease before, and you have likely heard about how the disease is transmitted; you may even know someone who is affected with it. However, in order to ensure that you know as much as possible about this disease, it’s important to understand it fully. What is Lyme disease? How is it contracted? What are the signs and symptoms? In this article, we will introduce you to the basics of Lyme disease.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a health condition that is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. It is primarily transmitted to human beings via deer ticks. These small creatures are often found in tall grasses and wooded areas. Once the tick attaches itself, or bites onto, a person, if it infected with the bacteria, it transmit it into its victim’s bloodstream. The bacteria that causes Lyme is often referred to as ‘the great imitator’ because symptoms that are associated with it are usually very similar to other illnesses. It affects any organ with the body, including the central nervous system, the brain, the muscles, the joints and the heart.
Those who are infected with Lyme disease are often diagnosed with other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and even mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. A misdiagnosis of this condition can delay the treatment of the underlying infection, which can complicate the side effects.
How is Lyme Disease Contracted?
As mentioned above, Lyme disease is usually the result of a bite from a deer tick that has been infected with the bacteria that causes this illness. These ticks are very tiny, about the size of a poppy seed, and their bites are painless. Because of the small size of the tick and the inability to feel when they bite, they often go unnoticed when they attach themselves onto a person. If left undisturbed, an infected tick will begin feeding on its prey’s blood. The longer the tick is left attached, the greater the chance that Lyme disease will be transferred into a person’s bloodstream.
Pregnant women who are infected with Lyme disease run the risk of transmitting it to their unborn child. There is suspicion that other forms of human-to-human transmission exist, but this methods have not been confirmed.
How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on the symptoms that a patient exhibit, as well as his or her exposure to ticks. There are also blood tests that can help to diagnose the disease; however, they are not always reliable, as their efficacy depends on the stage of the disease. For example, in the first few weeks of the infection, a blood test may come back negative, as it can take a several weeks for the antibodies in the disease to develop and be picked up by a blood test. Because of their unreliability, blood tests are usually only given to people who are exhibiting signs of Lyme disease.