Lyme disease can be treated

Lyme disease is an infectious disease that is mainly carried by ticks. If the infection is detected early enough, the disease can easily be treated with antibiotics. There is however no vaccine against Lyme disease.

The infection is caused by bacteria, called borrelia. These can be transmitted to humans by ticks sucking the blood, although the risk of infection after a tick bite is quite low. However, the disease is insidious, as it progresses gradually and is therefore often not diagnosed immediately. The bacteria multiply only very slowly. Lyme disease proceeds in several stages.

Seek medical attention immediately

One of the typical first signs of Lyme disease is a rash with a clearly defined ring. This so-called "bull's-eye rash" appears after five or six days in the area of the tick bite. This can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as painful joints, fatigue and fever. These complaints subside after a few days. However, not all those infected have these symptoms, so it may not occur to them that the tick is responsible and so they don't seek medical help.

In the second stage, the patient exhibits mainly neurological symptoms, which can appear after several weeks or even months after the tick bite. Some patients suffer from meningitis and blinding headaches. Others show signs of paralysis.

Chronic inflammation

If Lyme disease remains untreated, the bacteria enter the third stage, which can be months or even years after the infection. This can lead to changes in the joints, caused by inflammation of one or more of these. At this stage, Lyme disease can also trigger chronic inflammation of the skin or chronic diseases of the nervous system or even of the pericardium or heart muscle. These illnesses are difficult to treat. Sometimes the inflammation of the heart muscle leads to cardiac arrhythmias and can be fatal.

Lyme disease can be successfully treated if it is diagnosed early enough. The disease vectors or borrelia respond well to certain antibiotics. In the initial stage of the disease, treatment with antibiotics usually gets rid of the infection within a few days. However, if treatment is not administered until after the disease has had time to progress, it takes a lot longer. If the infection has already been in the body for several months, treatment with massive doses of antibiotics will be required.

Protect yourself against tick bites

There is still no vaccine for Lyme disease. In all regions where ticks exist, they may be carriers of Lyme disease. You can only protect yourself against Lyme disease by guarding against tick bites. If you like to go walking in the woods in spring or summer, or strolling through meadows, be sure to wear long trousers and high-top shoes. Anti-insect sprays can also help to keep the bloodsuckers off your neck. If you find a tick, remove it as soon as you possibly can, preferably with tweezers or in an emergency with your fingernails. You are unlikely to be infected by Lyme disease vectors during the first six hours following a bite.

Author: Silvia Minder