8 Things to Know About Lyme Disease

  • Woman walking
    1. Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection.
    Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. Deer ticks pick up the infection from birds and rodent hosts. The ticks spread it to people by attaching to the skin and feeding off of blood. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that 300,000 people per year will contract Lyme disease—and the numbers are rising. In fact, reported cases have doubled since the early 1990’s. Increasing tick and tick host populations may play a role. And doctors may be recognizing and diagnosing it more easily.

  • Lyme disease
    2. Not everyone gets the rash.
    Many people associate Lyme disease with the target-shaped rash it can cause, called erythema migrans (EM). EM may look like a bulls-eye or be solid red, and can range from a few inches to two feet across. EM may appear around the tick bite, or on other areas. However, about one in three people never have the rash. Other symptoms include fever, body aches, headache, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms can arise a few days to weeks after a bite.

  • Sick woman taking her temperature
    3. Lyme disease mimics the flu.
    Early Lyme disease symptoms mimic those of the flu—feeling run-down, achy, and feverish. If you have the flu, you will most likely recover within a week or two. If you have flu-like symptoms that linger for longer than that, or if they go away and then reappear, it could be Lyme disease. Any time you have flu-like symptoms, it’s important to contact your doctor for a diagnosis.

  • Tick on a stick
    4. You can only get Lyme disease from a tick.
    Deer ticks spread Lyme disease. They pick up the Lyme disease bacterium by sucking the blood of infected mice and birds. Then they suck the blood of humans and pass the bacteria to them. You can’t get Lyme disease from contact with an infected person. And though your dog or cat can get Lyme disease, they can’t pass it to you. But your pet could bring infected ticks into your home. So tick control for your animal may also protect you.

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    5. There are several ways to prevent Lyme disease.
    You can prevent Lyme disease by staying away from wooded or bushy areas, tall grasses, piles of leaves, and yard refuse. These are places that ticks love to live. If you do spend time in these areas (especially in the summer), wear long sleeves, light-colored pants, and close-toed shoes. Spray your skin and clothes with tick repellent, and check your skin and hair thoroughly for ticks when you come inside. Also, check your pet regularly.

  • Woman with fever, cold or flu drinking tea in bed
    6. Lyme disease can have long-term effects.
    Without early treatment, Lyme disease can spread from the bite to other areas, including the joints, muscles, nerves, liver, brain, heart and eyes. Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose because it can affect so many body systems, with symptoms that mimic other diseases and conditions. If you have ongoing severe fatigue, joint pain and swelling, vision problems, and dizziness, contact your doctor. These may be signs of Lyme disease.

  • Destination New York
    7. Lyme disease is geographically concentrated--but it's spreading.
    In the United States, 95% of Lyme disease cases occur in just 14 states. Most people who contract it do so in northeastern and Midwestern states. However, a 2017 study showed Lyme disease has been detected in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This included significant case increases in California and Florida—states not typically associated with Lyme disease. If you go outdoors in any area, take precautions against tick bites and make note of Lyme symptoms if you’ve recently been in wooded or grassy areas.

  • Pharmacist talking to female customer
    8. Lyme disease is very treatable when caught early.
    If you and your doctor catch Lyme disease within a few weeks of a tick bite, the infection is fairly easy to clear with antibiotics. Lyme disease is more common during warmer months in the United States including the northeast and Midwest states. Feeling like you have the flu in those geographic areas, especially during times when flu is less common, may be a red flag. So don’t ignore symptoms that don’t go away. See a doctor sooner rather than later to get a diagnosis and start treatment.

8 Things to Know About Lyme Disease

About The Author

  1. A History of Lyme Disease, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/lymedisease/understanding/pages/intro.aspx
  2. Lyme Disease Data. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/
  3. Lyme Disease. American College of Rheumatology. https://www.rheumatology.org/Practice/Clinical/Patients/Diseases_And_Conditions/Lyme_Disease/
  4. Lyme Disease. American Lyme Disease Foundation. http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml
  5. Lyme Disease. KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/lyme.html
  6. Matchless strategy for tick removal; 6 steps to avoid tick bites. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/matchless-strategy-for-tick-removal-6-steps-to-avoid-tick-bites-2...
  7. Preventing Tick Bites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html
  8. Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html
  9. New Quest Diagnostics Data Shows Lyme Disease Prevalence Increasing and is Now Present in New U.S. States. Quest Diagnostics. http://newsroom.questdiagnostics.com/2018-07-30-New-Quest-Diagnostics-Data-Shows-Lyme-Disease-Preval...
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 13
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