Lyme disease - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Lyme disease or Lyme disease is a disease caused by a bacterial infection that is transmitted through tick bites. The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a characteristic red rash on the skin.

Lyme disease can get worse and lead to serious complications. Therefore, treatment should be initiated as soon as possible after the symptoms of Lyme disease appear.

Causes of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi or Borrelia b. A person can get Lyme disease if bitten by a type of tick Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus infected with the bacteria.

In most cases, an infected tick must remain attached to the human body for at least 36–48 hours. So, if you notice a tick attached to your body, get rid of it immediately to prevent infection.

There are several factors that can increase a person's risk of developing Lyme disease, namely:

  • Frequent outdoor activities, such as camping, hunting animals, and climbing mountains
  • Often dress openly, so it's easy to get lice Lyme disease
  • Not getting rid of lice from the skin immediately or not getting rid of lice from the skin in the right way.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person, but usually develop in 3 stages (stages). In most cases, the initial symptom that appears is a skin rash called erythema migrans. This rash has distinctive characteristics, namely:

  • Reddish or purple like bruises
  • Increases gradually in a few days, even reaching 30 cm
  • Feels warm to the touch, but rarely causes pain or itching
  • Appears in the area of ​​the tick bite, but can appear on other parts of the body as the disease progresses
  • It is circular in shape and sometimes has a red dot in the middle, resembling an archery target

Although erythema migrans is a typical symptom of Lyme disease, but in some cases, the rash does not appear.

Other symptoms of Lyme disease depend on the stage. The following are the symptoms of Lyme disease based on the stage or stage of disease progression:

Stage 1

Stage 1 is the stage where the bacteria have not spread throughout the body. This stage occurs 1-2 weeks after the patient is bitten by the nail. Symptoms that may accompany a rash are:

  • Fever
  • Shivering
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Body tired easily
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Stage 2

Stage 2 is the initial stage of the spread of bacteria throughout the body. Symptoms can appear weeks or months after the patient is bitten by a tick. At this stage, a rash may appear on any part of the body away from the tick bite area. If not treated immediately, sufferers can also experience the following symptoms:

  • Stiff neck
  • Heart rhythm disturbances or arrhythmias
  • Disorders of the nervous system, such as a drooping face, numb limbs, memory impairment, or inflammation of the brain, inflammation of the lining of the brain (meningitis), and inflammation of the spinal cord.

Stage 3

Stage 3 is the stage where the bacteria have spread throughout the body. This stage occurs when infections in stages 1 and 2 are not treated. Stage 3 can occur months or years after the person has been bitten by a tick.

Some of the symptoms of Lyme disease in stage 3 are:

  • Arthritis in one or more large joints, such as the knee joint
  • More severe nerve damage, such as numbness in the legs and arms
  • Encephalopathy, which can cause short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty communicating and sleeping

When to go to the doctor

See your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms of Lyme disease, especially if you suspect or have been bitten by a tick. The sooner you get treatment, the better the effectiveness of the treatment. In addition, prompt and appropriate treatment can prevent complications.

It is important to remember, regular check-ups to the doctor should still be carried out even if the symptoms disappear. Symptoms that go away don't mean the infection has definitely gone away. Follow the advice and treatment given by the doctor until the infection is declared to have completely disappeared.

Lyme Disease Diagnosis

Symptoms of Lyme disease tend to be similar to those of other diseases, so it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. In addition, under some conditions, ticks that transmit Lyme disease can also carry and transmit other diseases.

To find out if someone has Lyme disease, the doctor will ask the patient's symptoms and whether the patient has ever been bitten by lice. After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination, one of which is by looking at the characteristics of the rash that appears.

To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will perform several supporting examinations below:

  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which is a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies against bacteria Borrelia b
  • Western blot, which is a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies specific to proteins Borellia b. Western blot also used to confirm a positive result on the ELISA test

Please note, the accuracy of the results of the two tests above depends on when the patient is infected with Lyme disease. In the first few weeks after infection, the test results may be negative. This happens because antibodies against bacteria Borellia b. only formed a few weeks after the patient is infected.

In addition, there are several other tests that can be done to see the spread of infection in the body, namely:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), to measure the electrical activity of the heart
  • Echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), to see the condition and structure of the heart
  • MRI of the head, to see the condition of brain tissue
  • Lumbar puncture, to check brain and spinal fluid

Lyme Disease Treatment

Lyme disease treatment aims to treat and prevent the infection from spreading. Lyme disease is easy to cure if treated quickly, especially if it is still in stage 1.

The method of treatment for Lyme disease is the administration of antibiotics whose types are adjusted to the severity and age of the patient. Types of antibiotics given include amoxicillin, cefuroxime, and doxycycline.

In early-stage Lyme disease, your doctor will give you antibiotics to drink for 10–14 days. Meanwhile, if Lyme disease is accompanied by heart disease or central nervous system disorders, the doctor will give injection antibiotics for 14–28 days.

In patients with Lyme disease stage 3 accompanied by arthritis, the doctor will give antibiotics to drink for 28 days accompanied by the following actions:

  • Administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Joint aspiration, i.e. removing fluid from the affected joint
  • Surgery to remove the inflamed joint

Most Lyme disease patients take months or years to fully recover.

Lyme Disease Complications

In some cases, patients still feel a number of symptoms despite treatment. This condition is called post-Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). PTLDS can last up to 6 months. Symptoms include:

  • Tingling or paresthesias
  • Hard to sleep
  • Headache
  • Vertigo
  • Chronic muscle or joint pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Disturbance mood

It is not known exactly what causes PTLDS. However, it is suspected that PTLDS occurs due to an abnormal immune system response triggered by bacteria.

During or after treatment, patients may also experience allergic reactions or inflammation of the skin, mucous membranes, nervous system, or internal organs, due to bacterial damage. This condition is known as the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction.

If not treated properly, Lyme disease can also lead to the following complications:

  • Heart rhythm disturbances
  • Nervous system disorders, such as facial drooping and neuropathy
  • Cognitive impairment, eg memory impairment
  • Chronic arthritis due to Lyme diseaseLyme arthritis)

Lyme Disease Prevention

The most effective way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid places that are a habitat for ticks Borrelia, such as shrubs and grasses. However, if you can't avoid these places, you can take some of the steps below to reduce your risk of being bitten by fleas:

  • Use closed clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, hats and gloves.
  • Apply an insect repellent cream that has been tested to be safe on the skin, such as an insect repellent cream that contains at least 20% DEET.
  • Cut the grass that is already long in the yard or around the house.
  • Check all parts of the body carefully and immediately take a shower and wash clothes after working on the grass.
  • If a tick lands on the skin, do not squeeze or pat it. Gently remove the lice on the head using tweezers. After that, apply an antiseptic to the affected skin.