Lyme disease (Borreliosis)

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called “spirochete” that can be transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks (Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes Pacificus). Lyme disease is often referred to as borreliosis because of the name of the borrelia bacterium.

What Causes Lyme Disease?

The main sources of infection are ticks, vectors of which are many animals, such as deer, dogs, rodents, cattle, some species of birds, often bacteria are found in their stomachs and tissues. Lyme disease is transmitted from these ticks during a skin bite when the bacterium enters the human body with tick saliva. Lyme disease is not transmitted from person to person. Lyme disease causes damage to the skin, joints, heart and nervous system.

Interestingly, the disease became known only in 1975, when the mothers of a group of children living next door in Lime, Connecticut, noticed the fact that their children equally suffered from rheumatoid arthritis with unusual course. This localization of the disease eventually led researchers to think of a similar cause of morbidity in this region and most likely bacteriological. Soon the bacterium itself was discovered, and the open disease was called “Lyme disease” in 1982.

Where is Lyme disease common?

The number of cases in a particular area depends on the number of ticks infected with Lyme bacteria. It is common on almost all continents except Antarctica. The most dangerous areas in terms of infection with tick-borne borreliosis in Russia are Leningrad, Tverskaya, Yaroslavl, Kostromskaya, Kaliningrad, Perm, Tyumen regions, as well as the Ural, West Siberian and Far Eastern regions.

What are the symptoms and signs of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease affects different parts of the body to varying degrees, depending on the extent to which it progresses.

In modern medicine, there are three stages:

1. Early local infection characterized by inflammation of the skin;
2. recurrent stage of the disease, characterized by heart and nervous system damage, including paralysis and meningitis;
3. Chronic, stage 3, during which motor and sensory functions are impaired, nerve damage, inflammation of the brain and joints.

Let’s take a look at each stage:

Stage 1: Redness of the skin at the site of a tick bite. Within a few days, and sometimes a few weeks after the bite, the skin formed rings, slightly towering above the surface, observed their redness. Usually the outer ring is a brighter color, unlike the central area and resembles an apple. This initial symptom is called “migratory erythema.” Skin redness is often accompanied by fatigue, muscle pain and joint stiffness, lymph nodes swelling, headache and symptoms reminiscent of symptoms of viral infection.

Stage 2: The disease progresses in 10-15% of those infected without proper treatment after about a month. Within weeks or months of initial skin redness, the bacteria and can spread throughout the body, causing joint disease resembling arthritis. Defeat is observed mainly in large joints: knee, shoulder, elbow, less often in small: joints of the hands, feet, temporal-jaw joints. There are disorders in the heart and nervous system.

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Stage 3: Chronic current occurs in the later stages of Lyme disease, 1-3 months after the end of the first two phases, and sometimes after 6-12 months or more. The disease begins to seriously affect the heart, causing inflammation of the heart muscle. This can lead to heart rhythm disturbance and heart failure. From the nervous system can develop muscle paralysis of the face (Bell’s palsy), painful sensations due to peripheral nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy), meningitis, increased fatigue, hearing loss, headaches. The joints have typical chronic inflammation changes, such as osteoporosis, thinning and loss of cartilage.

The mortality rate from Lyme disease is very small, however, very often the disease ends in disability.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Typically, the diagnosis of Lyme disease is made on the basis of a primary examination of the skin covered with rashes, especially in people who have recently been in regions where Lyme disease is common.

However, the doctor should carefully familiarize himself with the patient’s medical history, which would exclude diseases with similar symptoms, such as arthritis, heart disease and nervous system. A blood test for antibodies to borreliosis bacteria is usually not necessary at an early stage of the disease, but it can help with diagnosis at later stages. Antibodies are produced by the body to attack bacteria and can indicate the effects of bacteria. Antibodies, however, can be a false indicator of the disease, as they can remain for many years after the disease has been cured.

How is Lyme disease treated?

Lyme disease is mainly treated with antibiotics. The type of antibiotics depends on the stage of the disease and the degree of damage to the body. In the early stages are commonly used with oral drugs such as doxycycline (Vibramycin), amoxicillin (Amoxil), or cefuroxim axetil (Ceftin).

Therefore, if a person detects a typical skin lesions in the tick bite area, then they should see a doctor as soon as possible. Typically, antibiotic treatment eliminates the rash within one or two weeks. More severe lesions, such as the nervous system, may require intravenous drugs, such as ceftriaxone (Rocefin).

Painkillers may be used to relieve symptoms. Joint pain can be reduced by removing fluid from them (joint puncture). Usually when the therapy is started on time with appropriate antibiotics, arthritis subsides. But there have been cases where inflammation of the joints persisted even with the destruction of Lyme bacteria. In such cases, the doctor may also use oral medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin) to reduce inflammation and improve joint function.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease?

Due to the fact that Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks at the site of skin bite, a very effective way to prevent infection – not to allow the suction of ticks, to use protective clothing. Spraying special anti-insect repellents on exposed areas of the skin is also very effective.

Clothing, children and pets should be checked for ticks after a walk. Washing the skin and scalp, as well as washing clothes after returning home can prevent the bite and transmission of the disease.

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If the bite does occur, the tick can be carefully removed with tweezers and stored in the jar for later identification.

It is worth noting that people who have suffered from Lyme disease, there is no immunity to secondary infection.