During the summer months, many people venture outdoors to participate in activities such as hiking, biking and camping. Spending time in heavily-wooded or grassy areas increases your chance of contracting tick-borne conditions such as Lyme disease. I recently treated a patient whom I suspected to have this illness.
According to recent statistics, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in Europe and North America. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. In most cases in North America, this bacterium is carried and transmitted by deer ticks. These tiny ticks are about the size of a pin head and are brown in colour. Deer ticks mainly feed on the blood of mice, small birds and deer but may also feed on the blood of humans and other animals. Often, they live in small bushes or tall grass. In order to contract Lyme disease, you must be bitten by an infected deer tick. The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary greatly from person to person.
This is due to the fact that this illness can affect different parts of the body. The most common symptom is a rash that begins as a small red bump. This rash, which may grow up to 12 inches in size, often resembles a bull’s eye, with a red ring surrounding a clear area and a red center. This rash is called an erythema migrans and affects about 70-80% of infected people. In addition to a rash, Lyme disease can cause other symptoms such as joint pain, flu-like symptoms, and neurological problems. The latter is caused by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain. In rare cases, people experience heart problems, eye inflammation, hepatitis and severe fatigue. It is important to seek medical attention if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any symptoms as the treatment of Lyme disease is most successful if administered early.
Lyme disease is treated by antibiotic medications. Oral antibiotics are the standard treatment protocol for the early stages of the illness. A 10-to 14-day course of antibiotics is usually sufficient. In cases where the disease has progressed, intravenous antibiotics are effective in eliminating the infections however, may causes side effects such as lower white blood cell count and mild to severe diarrhea.
There are precautions you can take to decrease your risk of getting Lyme disease. Firstly, wear long pants and sleeves when walking in wooded or grassy areas. Also, use insect repellents which contain DEET with a concentration of 10-30%. Lastly, check yourself and your pets for ticks and shower as soon as possible when you return inside.
-Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.
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