What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease was first recognized in the United States in 1975, after a
mysterious outbreak of arthritis near Lyme, Connecticut. Children in the town began having arthritis-like symptoms. Medical researchers soon recognized the illness as a distinct disease, which they called Lyme disease.
What causes it?
A type of arthritis with a known cause! Lyme is an infection that is transmitted via the bite of a deer tick. The tick is infected with a spiral-shaped bacterium or spirochete known as Borrelia burgdorferi.
What are the symptoms?
Lyme disease will go through three stages if left untreated.
Stage 1: 3-32 days after the tick bite a rash will appear. The rash begins as a red, flat or raised area and slowly expands after several days, often in a circular fashion. Often the center clears giving it a bull’s eye appearance. Other symptoms in stage one may include headache, fever, chills, fatigue and joint pain and swelling.
Stage 2: After several weeks to several months, about 15% of people develop neurologic problems, which may include meningitis and encephalitis. Within several weeks after onset of illness, about 8% of people develop heart problems. Most will experiences pain in the joints, tendons, muscles, or bones.
Stage 3: Within weeks to two years after the beginning of infection, about 60% of people develop arthritis, with joint pain and swelling. The knee is the most commonly affected joint.
How is it diagnosed?
Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to those of other disorders. Blood tests are available that may be useful in diagnosing Lyme disease, however they are not foolproof. Diagnosis is made after careful evaluation of symptoms, medical history and blood tests.
How is it treated?
The treatment of choice for Lyme disease is usually antibiotics. Doxycycline, amoxicillin and ceftin are the three oral antibiotics most highly recommended. In stage 1 disease, regardless of the antibiotic given, almost half the people with Lyme disease have minor recurrences of headaches, musculoskeletal pain, or fatigue. Eventually there is complete recovery.
In later stages of the disease, antibiotics may be given via IV and used for a longer period of time. In a small percentage of late-Lyme patients, the disease becomes a treatment-resistant chronic condition with symptoms persisting for many months or even years.
LYMErix? Vaccine is now available for those who live in high risk areas.
For Lyme disease to exist in an area, at least three closely interrelated
elements must be present in nature: the Lyme disease bacteria, ticks that can transmit them, and mammals.
What research is being done?
Scientific research is being conducted around the world. New information is rapidily accumulating and should lead to better treatment and faster, more accurate diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Some of the related information found on Arthritis Insight:
For more information:
Lyme Disease-Adult Health Advisor, Copyright ? Clinical Reference Systems 1999
American Lyme Disease Foundation