Lyme, the most famous tick-borne disease, is more common than ever, at least judging by health insurance data that includes Lyme diagnoses. Our friends at Gizmodo recently covered new data about the upside (sorry), which is roughly equal to CDC estimates. So what do you need to know to stay safe and healthy?
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme is caused by bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferiwhich is carried by blacklegged ticks, Ixodes scapularis. This means that the disease can occur after a tick bite. In many cases (but not always), a rash will develop around the tick bite.
Symptoms may include fever and chills, and later other symptoms. Some of these include arthritis with joint pain and swelling, headache, facial paralysis, heart palpitations and tingling, numbness or shooting pains in the hands and feet. The CDC has more details on the symptoms here..
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, but some symptoms may persist even after treatment.
How can I prevent Lyme disease?
Prevention of the disease consists mainly in preventing tick bites. The main defenses here are DEET on your skin, permethrin on your clothes, and checking for ticks after being outdoors if you live in an area where Lyme disease is common. Jicks usually crawl around you for a while before biting, so if you can find a hitchhiker before it sets, you can brush it (or wash it down the drain in the shower) to prevent the bite.
Lyme disease-carrying ticks don’t just prey on humans. they also feed on the blood of deer, rabbits, mice and other wild animals. (We have more information here on how ticks find and bite youif you’re curious.)
Who can catch Lyme?
East Lyme most common in the northeastern United States, from West Virginia north to New England; and around the Great Lakes region, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. Disease-carrying ticks spread from this area, so you can also get Lyme if you live in a nearby area or have recently traveled to an area where Lyme is endemic.
What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
The short answer is: antibiotics. Borrelia burgdorferi is a bacterium, and it can be killed by a course of antibiotics, usually doxycycline. Depending on where you live and how common Lyme is, your provider may want to test you for Lyme disease before prescribing treatment, or they may assume you have it and just write you a prescription to be safe. . Not all tick bites cause Lyme disease.
Sometimes symptoms may persist after treatment, what the CDC calls post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). The bacteria are gone, but they may have triggered an autoimmune response that’s still ongoing, leading to ongoing pain, fatigue, and brain fog. That’s what seems to be happening, anyway; the syndrome is not yet well understood.
Is Lyme disease a gift from the universe?
Recently a podcast clip has circulated in which two influencers discuss the idea that Lyme disease is of “intergalactic” origin and that contracting the disease is “a gift”. These are not, shall we say, scientifically accepted theories.
Attributing a wide range of symptoms to a chronic version of Lyme disease has become a cash cow for so-called “Lyme-literate” healthcare providers, and some celebrities and influencers. have accepted being a Lyme disease patient as part of their identity.
This can lead to expensive treatments, including long-term antibiotic treatments, supplements, IV treatments, and other therapies that mainstream medicine would consider inappropriate for Lyme or PTLDS and that can actually be dangerous. If you suspect you have Lyme disease, see a doctor or trusted provider and be wary of attempts to impose expensive long-term treatments on you.