Lyme disease, the most famous tick-borne disease, is becoming more common than it used to be – at least judging by health insurance data that includes diagnoses of Lyme disease. Our friends at Gizmodo recently covered new data about the (sorry) height, which roughly coincides with CDC Estimates. So what do you need to know to stay safe and healthy?
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium Borrelia burgdorferiworn by black-legged ticks, Ixodes scapularis. This means that the disease can occur after a tick bite. In many cases (but not always), a bullseye rash will develop around the tick bite.
Symptoms may include fever and chills, followed by other symptoms. Some of these include arthritis with painful and swollen joints, headaches, facial paralysis, palpitations and tingling, numbness or stabbing pains in the hands and feet. The CDC has more information on symptoms here.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, but some symptoms may persist even after treatment.
How can I prevent Lyme disease?
The prevention of the disease is, first of all, the prevention of tick bites. The main defenses are DEET on the skin, permethrin on clothes, and checking for ticks after being outside if you live in an area where Lyme disease is common. T.ticks usually crawl on you for a while before they bite, so if you can find a hitchhiker before it sticks, you can shake it off (or rinse it down the shower drain) to prevent being bitten.
Lyme disease ticks not only feed on humans; they also feed on the blood of deer, rabbits, mice and other wild animals. (Find out more here how ticks find you and bite youif you are curious.)
Who can get Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is most common in the northeastern United States, from West Virginia north to New England; and around the Great Lakes area, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. The disease-carrying ticks spread from this area, so you can also contract Lyme disease if you live in a nearby region or if you’ve recently traveled to an area where Lyme disease is endemic.
What is the treatment of Lyme disease?
The short answer is antibiotics. Borrelia burgdorferi is a bacterium and can be killed by antibiotics, usually doxycycline. Depending on where you live and how common your Lyme disease is, your doctor may want to test you for Lyme disease before prescribing treatment, or they may assume you have it and just write you a prescription to be safe. Not all tick bites cause Lyme disease.
Occasionally, symptoms may persist after treatment, at what the CDC calls Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS). The bacteria are gone but may have triggered an autoimmune response that continues, leading to constant pain, fatigue, and brain fog. At least that seems to be the case; the syndrome is still not well understood.
Is Lyme disease a gift of the universe?
Recently a podcast clip is circulating in which two influencers discuss Lyme disease is “intergalactic” in origin, and contracting it is a “gift.” These are not, say, scientifically accepted theories.
Assigning the wide variety of symptoms of the chronic version of Lyme disease has become the cash cow for so-called healthcare providers who know about Lyme disease, as well as some celebrities and influencers they adopted being a Lyme patient as part of their identity.
This can lead to courses of expensive therapies, including long-term antibiotic treatment, supplements, intravenous therapy, and other treatments that mainstream medicine would consider inappropriate for Lyme disease or PTLDS and which may actually be dangerous. If you suspect you have Lyme disease, see a doctor or provider you trust and be wary of trying to introduce costly, long-term treatment regimens.