Monday, May 27, 2013

What is Lyme Disease: Basics & the Bite

Most people know about or have heard of Lyme disease. Few know more than it's caused by the bite of a tick.

I've mentioned Lyme before. I have it. Maybe someone you know has it. You've most likely heard of it.

But what is it???

Lyme is a bacterial borne infection, caused by the bite of a deer tick.

It's not contagious, but anyone can get it.

It's a very real epidemic, with the numbers climbing yearly.

More people are diagnosed with Lyme every year than HIV/AIDS, and West Nile Virus combined. And that is just the diagnosed. Many, many people have it, and don't know they do. I had it for 2+ years without knowing I did.


Lyme was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut, from where it gets it's name. The whole neighborhood was getting the same symptoms and becoming very sick, even dying. They called for more research to find out what was making them sick, and it was discovered it was deer ticks.

Since, then there has been much more research done, many more things discovered about it, and along with that came much controversy, which I'll explain in a later post.


I said before it's caused by the bite of a tick. But, not every tick you see is carrying the Lyme bacteria.

There are two main types of ticks (at least around here - Wisconsin). The wood tick, and the deer tick. Wood ticks are bigger, and usually harmless. Deer ticks are smaller, and the ones that can give you Lyme.
Wood/Deer Tick comparison
We live out in the country, and finding wood ticks here is a daily occurrence. We've easily found 25 this year alone, with a little less than half of them attached to someones head/skin. The last time we found a deer tick (they are harder to find because they are smaller) was once last summer. Tick checks in us girl's hair is also a daily occurrence. The boy's hair is purposely shaved short enough to see them without having to check.

I'm not sure about wood ticks, but deer ticks can be found all over the US, even though they are more prevalent in some areas.

I had to add one of the rest of the world too, since I probably didn't get it in the US!
Please also keep in mind these are cases, reported, and the bite could have happened elsewhere. Nevertheless, no matter where you live, you are not exempt from the possibility of Lyme!


So, let's pretend for a minute you have a deer tick on you. You don't know it and it bites you.

A characteristic of a deer tick bite is a bulls-eye rash around the bite area. You may or may not have this, only 50% of people who have Lyme report having a rash they saw. (I vaguely remember having some kind of rash on my leg, but it went away, and wasn't visibly infected, so we dismissed it. Mind you I was in Ukraine at a mental institution, a rash could mean anything!)

Another early sign is flu like symptoms. Fever, chills, nauseousness, etc. You will most likely have something like this, even if it's just for a day or two and not very bad. (I had this, but we blamed it on the greasy food, the temperature, and the smells at the institution.)

So, scenario #1 - You suspect you have it. You tell your doctor. You get tested for it. The test is correct only 50% of the time, so it may not come back positive, but just to be safe your doctors starts you on a round of antibiotics. This may or may not take care of it, but you will probably be told it did. (More on this in the controversy post.) If you still do have it, it will overlap in scenario #2.

Scenario #2 - You are ignorant, like I was, of that fact you have it. You have the flu like symptoms, if you're like me, you felt achy for a couple months. Then (how soon depending on several factors, for me, it was 2 yrs), the symptoms intensify and you start getting new ones.

More about this coming in part 2 of What is Lyme Disease. Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading. By simply doing that you are helping to raise awareness. My hope is that these post will help others understand this awful disease, and possibly help someone diagnose their Lyme and get proper treatment to help. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this information on Lyme Disease. I found it very helpful as I am terrified of ticks. I totally got freaked out from the picture of you letting them sit on your finger to do the compare. When I was 4 years old I got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick. I was fishing with my father and we were around a lot of cattle that just come up from Texas. It took them weeks to figure out what was wrong with me while I was in the hospital. My father finally found the tick in my ear. They tell me I was touch and go for a few days. So that is why I totally freak when I get a tick on me or any of my fur-babies. Very good information. Thanks, Sherri


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