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General Practice 2023

Lyme Diseaseça: symptoms, cause, diagnosis and treatment

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Lyme Diseaseça: symptoms, cause, diagnosis and treatment
Lyme Diseaseça: symptoms, cause, diagnosis and treatment

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bite of a tick contaminated by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, leading to the appearance of a circular red spot on the skin, which increases over time.

In most cases, the person does not realize that the tick has bitten the skin, only noticing when symptoms begin to appear. As soon as the first symptoms of Lyme disease, or tick disease, are noticed, it is important to consult an infectious disease specialist or a general practitioner so that tests are carried out to confirm the infection and, thus, the most appropriate treatment can be started, which normally is done with the use of antibiotics.

If the treatment is not done or is done incorrectly, complications such as arthritis, meningitis or heart problems can arise, which greatly reduce the quality of life.

reddish circular spot
reddish circular spot

Red circular stain

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

The first symptoms of Lyme disease appear between 3 to 30 days after the tick bite, the main ones being:

  • Lesion and redness on the skin at the site of the bite, similar to a bull's eye, between 2 to 30 cm, which increases in size over time;
  • Tiredness;
  • Pain in muscles, joints and headache;
  • Fever and chills;
  • Stiff neck.

When you have any of these symptoms, especially accompanied by a stain and redness on the skin, it is advisable to immediately consult a general practitioner, or infectious disease specialist, to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment with antibiotics.

However, if treatment is not started in time, later symptoms may appear and are usually related to complications, such as:

  • Arthritis, especially in the knee, where there is pain and swelling in the joints;
  • Neurological symptoms, such as numbness and pain in the feet and hands, paralysis of the facial muscles, memory failure, and difficulty concentrating;
  • Meningitis, which is characterized by severe headache, neck stiffness, and increased sensitivity to light;
  • Heart problems, being noticed due to palpitations, shortness of breath and fainting.

In the presence of these symptoms, it is recommended to go to the hospital to receive treatment for the disease and avoid the worsening of complications that, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.

What causes Lyme disease

Lyme disease is mainly caused by the bite of ticks infected by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and that feed on human blood, mainly ticks of the species Ixodes ricinus. For these tick species to be able to transmit the disease to people, they must be attached to the person for at least 24 hours.

This bacterium can be present in the blood of several animals, such as deer and rats, for example, and when the tick parasites these animals, it acquires the bacterium and can transmit it to other animals and people.

How the transmission happens

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that can be present in the blood of various animals such as rats, deer or blackbirds, for example. When a tick bites one of these animals, it also becomes contaminated with the bacteria and can then transmit this bacteria to people.

Ticks are so small that a person may not know they have been bitten, so if there is any suspicion, the best places to look for a tick on the body include: behind the ears, on the scalp, on the belly button, armpits, groin or back of knee, for example. The risk of becoming infected is higher when the tick manages to stay on the skin for more than 24 hours.

People who work in forested areas such as hikers, campers, farmers, forest workers or soldiers are at a higher risk of being bitten by ticks and acquiring the disease. See what other diseases can be caused by the tick.

How to confirm the diagnosis

Lyme disease is usually diagnosed through blood tests that can be done 3 to 6 weeks after a person is bitten by the tick, which is the time it takes for the infection to develop and show up on tests. Thus, to confirm the infection, the doctor may recommend performing a serological test to identify the presence of circulating antibodies in the blood produced against the bacteria.

In addition, a blood count may be requested, as well as a skin biopsy, known as Warthin Starry, which, although not specific, may be useful in the diagnosis due to histopathological findings.

How the treatment is done

Treatment for Lyme Disease is done through the use of antibiotics such as Doxycycline, for example, and the sooner the treatment is started, the faster the recovery, avoiding complications.

1. Use of antibiotics

Treatment for Lyme disease should always be prescribed by your doctor, and the infection is usually treated with an antibiotic such as Doxycycline 100 mg, which should be taken twice a day for 2 to 4 weeks or as needed. with medical advice. In the case of children and pregnant women, the use of Amoxicillin or Azithromycin is indicated for the same period of time.

Usually, the antibiotic is taken orally, however, in more severe cases it is necessary to stay hospitalized so that the drug is administered directly into the vein and complications can be avoided. In addition, women who are breastfeeding can be treated with antibiotics without putting the baby at risk.

2. Physical therapy sessions

In severe situations, Lyme disease can cause arthritis, particularly in the knee, which leads to joint pain and swelling. In these cases, the person may need to undergo physiotherapy sessions to regain mobility and be able to carry out day-to-day activities without pain. Sessions are performed by physiotherapists and include mobility exercises and stretching or use of equipment according to the severity of the case.

In some cases, the doctor may recommend the use of anti-inflammatories, such as Ibuprofen for example, to reduce joint inflammation.

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