Lyme Disease Can Have Long-Lasting Symptoms


Editor’s Note: We have updated this article to read 300,000 cases annually instead of 30,000 in the first paragraph of this article.  Of course, this is a significant difference in the many lives that are impacted by Lyme Disease annually.

As more people move into previously uninhabited areas, new cases of animal-spread diseases such as Lyme disease will increase.  300,000 new cases of Lyme disease get reported to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) annually.

Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected black-legged deer ticks.  While the deer ticks can be found in most states, they are concentrated in the north-east, and north-central areas of the country, with another species of tick responsible for the spread of the disease in areas along the Pacific regions.

The first symptoms of Lyme disease include fevers, headaches and fatigue, muscle pain, and joint pain  Most victims will also develop a bulls-eye patterned skin rash around the infected areas.  These symptoms can develop within 7-14 days of a bite.

Without treatment the disease can spread into further symptoms of severe headaches, stiffness in the neck, Bell’s palsy, pain and swelling in joints, and shooting pains throughout the body.

Long term symptoms can include arthritis and numbness and tingling in extremities.

Lyme disease is most often treated with the use of oral antibiotics such as doxycycline or amoxicillin.  Some patients may require the use of intravenous antibiotics such as penicillin or ceftrioxone.

Approximately 10 to 20 % of patients who receive antibiotic treatment will have reoccurring symptoms and are diagnosed with Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome.

Lyme disease has only been proven to be passed through the bite of an infected tick.  Lyme disease can affect pregnant mothers and lead to an infection of the placenta.  No evidence has proven that Lyme disease can be passed through blood transfusions, but it has been proven that the disease can live in blood that has been stored.

Lyme disease has not been shown to be able to be passed through sexual contact or through eating meat that was carrying ticks.

In most cases, Lyme disease takes between 24-48 hours to spread from a tick that has attached itself to its host.  Most people are infected by the bite of immature ticks, called nymphs. Nymphs are hard to see, as they are less than two millimeters in diameter.

Ticks can be found in wooded areas as well as shady areas with long grass.  People can easily pick up ticks by walking through affected areas and not realize that they may be carrying them.  People can also pick up ticks by handling pets and game animals that may be carrying them.

People who live close to wooded areas are advised to keep their yards mowed short and use insecticides to discourage ticks from entering their yards.  Homeowners are advised to keep a three-foot wide path of wood chips or gravel in between their yards and wooded area.  The gravel or woods chips will serve as a deterrent to migrating ticks.

Pet owners are encouraged to check their pets daily for any ticks, especially if the pets are allowed inside the homes.  Many tick prevention products, such as collars are available.

A vaccine for Lyme disease used to be available but was discontinued in 2002.  The manufacturer of the vaccine claimed it was discontinued due to lack of demand.  The vaccine offered limited protection that wore off with time.

The prevalence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever has introduced in a change in handling tick bites.  People who discover ticks attached to themselves are now advised to grasp them with tweezers and pull them off immediately, instead of the older advice of encouraging the tick to let go of its own accord.  The area should be washed with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

For more information, see the US CDC’s website,


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