Lyme Disease: Misdiagnosis, Prevention & Prevalence
Summer is here! With hot and humid temperatures in the forecast, now is a good time to spread awareness of Lyme Disease. An often misdiagnosed disease, Lyme disease is estimated to infect approximately 329,000 people every year in the United States – more than ten times the number of cases actually reported to the CDC. In fact, according to the CDC, Lyme Disease is the most rapidly growing vector-borne infectious disease in this country.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease (Lyme borreliosis) is an infectious disease that is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks. Ticks that transmit the disease are most active from April-September, with cases most prevalent June-August. Symptoms of the disease can include severe fatigue, a bullseye-pattern rash, chest pain, heart palpitations, joint pain, anxiety, memory problems, and headaches, among other symptoms, and can lead to arthritis, neurological disorders, and more. Most people rely on the bullseye rash to alert them of the disease, but it is important to note that 50 percent of people infected do not recall having a rash of any type.
Unfortunately, most people are misdiagnosed during the early stages of the disease, leading to a chronic form of Lyme Disease with severe symptoms. In fact, the average patient sees five doctors over two years before receiving a diagnosis. Because of this delay in receiving an appropriate diagnosis and course of treatment, 40 percent Lyme patients end up with long-term health problems.
Preventing Lyme Disease
The most effective way to reduce your risk of contracting Lyme Disease is to protect yourself with the right clothing. Hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants tucked into socks or boots. Wearing light-colored clothing will make any ticks that attach themselves more visible.
It is also a good idea to take special care when deciding whether to allow pets into the home, since they can bring ticks with them into the house. If you work outdoors handling tall grass, leaf litter, bushes, or woods, use DEET to repel ticks and make sure to check yourself for ticks, especially in the hair, armpits, and groin. Outdoor work clothing should be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer to kill any ticks.
If you do discover an attached tick, you should immediately remove it, as removal within 36 hours can reduce transmission rates. The best method is to pull the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible without crushing the tick, twisting it, or removing the head from the body. Infection is unlikely if the tick has been attached for less than 24 hours. If you notice any symptoms, immediately seek medical treatment. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic like doxycycline, amoxicillin, azithromycin, or cefuroxime axetil for one to four weeks.
If you suspect that you might have Lyme Disease, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion! We hope you have found this information helpful and that you have a safe and enjoyable summer outdoors.