Lyme disease

What is it?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted through contact with an infected tick. In most cases, the tick must be attached to the body for 36 to 48 hours or more before the infected bacterium can be transmitted. When left untreated, Lyme disease can cause many symptoms including fever, rash, facial paralysis, and arthritis.

How do you get Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is transmitted by an infected tick, which can attach to any part of the body. People are at a higher risk to have tick contact if they work in or frequently visit leafy outdoor areas. Ticks thrive in the warmer months of the year from May through September, depending on weather.

The symptoms

Early stage symptoms that could be a sign of Lyme disease include muscle and joint aches, headache, fever, chills, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and rashes.

If left untreated, later-stage symptoms could develop and may include heart-rhythm abnormalities, arthritis, and irregularities in the nervous system.

Tests and treatment for Lyme disease

If you think you may have Lyme disease, contact your health care professional right away. There are diagnostic and blood tests that your doctor may run to determine if you have Lyme disease.

Typically, treatment involves taking antibiotics that combat the disease’s early stage symptoms. Most patients recover rapidly and completely after taking antibiotics.

Avoiding Lyme disease

There are plenty of things you can do to avoid Lyme disease including:

  • Avoid wooded, brushy, and grassy areas
  • Wear light-colored clothing so you can detect ticks easily
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to cover your body
  •  Wear a hat for extra protection
  • Walk in the center of trails to avoid brush and grass
  • Do a careful body check for ticks after being outdoors
  • Carefully remove any ticks immediately by grabbing them with a tweezer and pulling straight out; then disinfect the area with soap and water

Know when to seek care

Last reviewed: 
January 2018

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