Doctor explains how to prevent tick bites
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Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures that live in woods, areas with long grass, and sometimes in urban parks and gardens. They’re found all over the UK. Ticks may seem harmless but you can catch Lyme disease if they bite you.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause flu-like symptoms.
The symptoms you may experience depend on the stage of infection.
According to the CDC, the following symptoms usually show up three to 30 days after the initial bite:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes may occur in the absence of rash
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash.
Later Signs and Symptoms (days to months after tick bite) include:
- Swollen knee
- Swollen Knee
- Facial Palsy
- Facial Palsy
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
- Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)
- Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet.
What does a tick rash look like?
According to the NHS, the rash – an early warning sign – is usually circular or oval-shaped.
“The rash can have a darker or lighter area in the centre and might gradually spread. It’s not usually hot or itchy,” explains the health body.
It continues: “The rash may be flat, or slightly raised, and look pink, red, or purple when it appears on white skin.
“It can be harder to see the rash on brown and black skin and it may look like a bruise.”
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How serious is Lyme disease?
The Mayo Clinic explains: “Untreated, Lyme disease can spread to other parts of your body for several months to years after infection, causing arthritis and nervous system problems.”
Given its potential seriousness, the health body says to “visit your doctor even if signs and symptoms disappear — the absence of symptoms doesn’t mean the disease is gone”.
What to expect from your appointment
“The GP will ask about your symptoms and consider any rash or recent tick bites you know about,” explains the NHS.
According to the health body, Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose.
“It has similar symptoms to other conditions and there’s not always an obvious rash.”
It continues: “Two types of blood test are available to help confirm or rule out Lyme disease. But these tests are not always accurate in the early stages of the disease.
“You may need to be retested if you still have Lyme disease symptoms after a negative result.”
How is Lyme disease treated?
The CDC says: “Early diagnosis and proper antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease is important and can help prevent late Lyme disease.”
According to the health body, some patients report persistent symptoms of pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking even after treatment for Lyme disease.
“The state of the science relating to persistent symptoms associated with Lyme disease is limited, emerging, and unsettled,” it says.
Additional research is therefore needed to better understand how to treat, manage, and support people with persistent symptoms associated with Lyme disease.
It’s important to note some websites offer tests and treatment for Lyme disease that may not be supported by scientific evidence.
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