How do you get Lyme disease
What can happen after a tick bite?
How can a tick make you sick?
Of course these are all great questions but why does it have to be so complicated? Here is a short blog post to help you understand the different stages of Lyme disease. Remember no two people will have the same symptoms in the same exact order.
Lyme disease is a global health concern. It is spread by an infected tick, which is part of thelxodes species. Ticks can be found on every continent except Antarctica, where the weather is too cold for their survival. There are several different types of ticks all over the world, that are responsible for a variety of infections.
Ticks have a two-year life span, and three life stages; larvae, nymph and adult. For a tick to advance into the next stage they need a blood meal. Ticks become infected when they feed on an infected animal. Deer are the first to come to mind, but we cannot leave out the white footed mouse. The bacterium, Borrelia that causes Lyme disease, can be part of these animals’ normal flora, but not ours. Ticks can also carry other types of infections at the same time, called co-infections.
Borrelia is a spirochete, which is a cork-screw shaped bacteria with flagella, that propel this nasty critter in the body. The spirochetes live in the gut of the tick.
Ticks are found in tall grass areas, back yards, under leaves, hiking trails, campgrounds and in the park. Just about anywhere they can have shade. Ticks hitch a ride on a piece of your clothing and then search for skin. Once they settle on a spot, they burrow their mouth pieces into and under the skin. Ticks have a special ingredient in their saliva that actually acts like an anesthetic agent, making their bite undetectable. After a tick attaches itself, it begins to draw blood into its body. Once there is enough blood, the tick has the ability to regurgitate the liquid portion of the meal and save the more solid component. This is how spirochetes invade the host. It may or may not take more than 24 hours for this to occur, so it is important to do frequent tick checks and remove any ticks appropriately. There are labs that can test ticks to see if they carry infections. Not all ticks are infected-Thank the Dear Lord!
Many people never find a tick on their body, especially since ticks in the nymph stage are the size of a poppy seed. Some but not all people develop a “Bulls Eye” rash called Erythema Migrans. This is an early sign of Lyme disease. This classic rash is associated with the Early Localized Stage. This can occur within days to a few weeks. Some people can also develop a fever and flu-like symptoms during this stage. Treatment with appropriate antibiotics during this stage offers the best chance to kill the spirochetes at this localized area before they multiply and spread.
If the tick goes unnoticed or there were no obvious symptoms of illness, and therefore no treatment, the spirochetes will multiply and further invade the body traveling by way of the bloodstream. This is the Early Disseminated Stage which can occur over weeks to months. Spirochetes have a unique way of disguising themselves from the immune system. They can change their outer coverings and take on a cyst form or group together in a colony called biofilms. A type of biofilm is plaque on your teeth that encase bacteria. These changes make the spirochetes difficult to treat. The multiplying Borrelia infection can move freely throughout the body burrowing into organs and tissue, such as the brain, heart, musculoskeletal and nervous system to name a few. Disruption can cause serious issues as well as a multitude of symptoms including, but not limited to: persistent, extreme fatigue, memory issues, heart palpitations and pain, Symptoms can be different from one person to another. For this reason, Lyme has been called the Great Impersonator.
As time progresses without a correct diagnosis, which often occurs due to the fact that testing can be inaccurate, patients may progress onto the Late Disseminated Stage. Patients have been known to develop symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and ALS, (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
The best was to prevent Lyme disease and co-infections is awareness. Frequent tick checks on ourselves and our pets will help prevent exposure. Use of a safe tick repellent made with essential oils and repellent infused clothing, especially socks, can also offers some additional protection. Nature provides a spectacular experience, one that should not be avoided. Simple steps can help everyone enjoy the great outdoors.
Sending you all Health, Joy and Laughter,