What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type. The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness, known as erythema migrans, that begins at the site of a tick bite about a week after it has occurred. The rash is typically neither itchy nor painful. About 25% of people do not develop a rash. Other early symptoms may include fever, headache, and feeling tired. If untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, or heart palpitations, among others. Months to years later, repeated episodes of joint pain and swelling may occur. Occasionally, people develop shooting pains or tingling in their arms and legs. Despite appropriate treatment, about 10 to 20% of people also develop joint pains, have problems with memory, and feel tired much of the time.
Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks of the Ixodes genus. Diagnosis is based upon a combination of symptoms, history of tick exposure, and possibly testing for specific antibodies in the blood. Testing of individual ticks is not typically useful.
Prevention includes efforts to prevent tick bites such as by wearing long pants and using DEET. Using pesticides to reduce tick numbers may also be effective. Ticks can be removed using tweezers. If an infection develops, a number of antibiotics are effective, including doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime. Treatment is usually for two or three weeks. Some people develop a fever and muscle and joint pains from treatment which may last for one or two days. In those who develop persistent symptoms, long-term antibiotic therapy has not been found to be useful.
Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in the Northern Hemisphere. Lyme disease was diagnosed as a separate condition for the first time in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut (it was originally mistaken for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis). --> Research is ongoing to develop new vaccines.