Chronic Lyme Disease

Difficult to diagnose, chronic lyme disease is contracted by a tick bite and causes several flu-like symptoms. Named after Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first discovered, lyme disease may first present as a large circular red rash, a tell tale sign of a tick bite. A species called "Ixodes Scapularis" may carry harmful bacteria, which is transmitted into the skin of humans, dogs, or other animals. People often contract an infection after walking or hiking through wooded or grassy areas, which may be heavily populated by insects. Ticks live on wild animals and birds, burrowing deep into fur or feathers and latching onto unsuspecting humans or house pets that travel through wooded areas or fields. A walk in the park could literally cause illness or even death when bacteria-carrying insects bite humans and animals.

Victims of chronic lyme disease may experience headaches and flu-like symptoms, such as chills and fever, body aches, muscle weakness, and inflammation in the joints. The circular rash may spread quickly and resemble a bulls eye, with lighter coloring inside graduating to deeper redness on the outer fringes. Left undiagnosed, an infection can linger for weeks and months as victims continue to experience increasingly distressing discomfort. Advanced stages of the disease may mimic or attribute to arthritic conditions, such as muscle stiffness and weakness, severe swelling, and paralysis of the facial muscles. Persistent joint inflammation can cause a deterioration of cartilage, debilitating pain, and an increasing lack of mobility. As pain becomes increasingly intolerable, individuals may become dependent upon anti-inflammatory drugs which carry dangerous side effects. Victims may also experience short term memory loss and disorientation. Because symptoms so closely mimic the flu, individuals may put off seeing a doctor and try to treat the disease with home remedies or over-the counter cold medicines. If symptoms worsen or become persistent, seeing the doctor is the best recourse to begin treating chronic lyme disease.

In addition to arthritic conditions, chronic lyme disease can also affect the brain, heart, and neurological system. Cardiovascular conditions, such as heart block or palpitations have also been reported. Heart block victims will present with breathlessness or chronic fatigue, resulting from a misfiring of heart impulses which causes blood not to reach the ventricles, or chambers. In severe cases, brain damage can occur if blockages prevent blood from traveling to the cranium. Blood tests can determine whether a patient's overall malaise is caused by lyme disease. Once diagnosed, treatment for the infection will include a series of antibiotics to stem the effects of bacteria; along with aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory medicine to treat pain and arthritic symptoms. Within three weeks, patients are usually rid of the infection and swelling and pain should subside. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;" (Psalm 103:2-3).

The earlier chronic lyme disease is diagnosed the better the outcome. Individuals that detect a tick bite should seek medical attention immediately or within thirty-six hours. Lyme disease is usually not transmitted if bacteria-infected ticks, which attach themselves to the skin, are removed within the first day. It is a good idea to examine household pets and clothing for ticks before entering the home after a walk in the park or other wooded area. When a tick bites, it latches onto the skin with a fury, burying its tentacles into the skin and burrowing its body onto the wound. Carefully removing them with tweezers can prevent bacteria from spreading. Ticks should be destroyed and disposed of before they can bite humans or burrow deeply within another animal's fur. Before taking a hike, individuals should dress in long sleeved shirts and long pants with sports socks to protect from insect bites. Ticks love low brush, so staying along a clearance or path may lower the odds of getting bitten.

To prevent a tick infestation and ward off chronic lyme disease, homeowners can also practice good hygiene and preventive maintenance. Washing bedding for house pets or clothing worn in wooded areas is also a good way to rid ticks from fabrics before they can bite. Like the common flea, ticks can be easily seen on light clothing. Spraying the skin with insect repellant or powdering dogs and cats before hiking may also keep ticks and fleas at bay. Areas around the yard can be treated with sevin dust, a compound which repels fleas and other pests without harming animals. The powdery compound can be applied to door entrances, around shrubs and plants, and building foundations to deter infestation. Insects, such as ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas love moist or damp areas and can rapidly populate areas near water and overgrown vegetation. Keeping lawns mowed helps prevent tick infestation and chronic lyme disease. Veterinarians may also recommend specific products designed to repel ticks at no risk of harming animals, birds, humans or the environment.

As with any disorder, early detection can help prevent the spread of chronic lyme disease. Flu-like symptoms or a circular, red bulls eye rash noticeable one to two days after hiking in a wooded area should not be ignored. Routinely examining pets, pet bedding, and clothing immediately after being outdoors will also help homeowners stay watchful for bacteria-carrying insects. Visible ticks should be carefully removed with tweezers and disposed of immediately. Signs or symptoms of infection should be treated seriously and emergency care is warranted. With immediate treatment, victims of tick bites should fully recover within one to three weeks.

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