Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart, the nervous system, and create problems with short-term memory. Due to the rise of Lyme disease cases reported in the United States, the CDC encourages the public to become more familiar with the symptoms of Lyme disease. On Monday, health officials said that “Lyme disease is about 10 times more common than previously reported,” reported the Associated Press via Yahoo News on Aug. 19, 2013.
As many as 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. However, since many cases go unreported by doctors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the actual number of Lyme disease cases is most likely much higher.
“If left untreated, the infection can cause arthritis and more severe problems.”
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.
Lyme disease is more prevalent in the U.S. Northeast and upper Midwest, with 96 percent of cases in 13 states. Lyme disease is very prevalent in wooded areas in Europe where many people get vaccinations against Lyme disease and carry tick-removal kits with them.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, California is not among the states widely affected by Lyme disease because in California, “nymphal ticks’ favorite host is the common western fence lizard, which has a protein in it blood that kills the bacterium responsible for Lyme. As a result, few adult ticks are carriers.”
However, national and international travels during the summer months are exposing people across the United States to the tick-borne illness and since symptoms might not appear while being on vacation, the CDC recommends to everyone to become familiar with the symptoms of Lyme disease which might include a rash that looks like a bull's-eye centered on the tick bite.
About three to 30 days after being bitten by a tick, a person might see a red, expanding rash called erythema migrans (EM) and experience fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
According to the CDC, “Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods.”
After diagnosing Lyme disease through a reliable blood test, most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.
However, if unrecognized and untreated, Lyme disease can have negative health effects months and even years after the tick bite.
“Approximately 60% of patients with untreated infection may begin to have intermittent bouts of arthritis, with severe joint pain and swelling. Large joints are most often affected, particularly the knees. Arthritis caused by Lyme disease manifests differently than other causes of arthritis and must be distinguished from arthralgias (pain, but not swelling, in joints). Up to 5% of untreated patients may develop chronic neurological complaints months to years after infection. These include shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, and problems with short-term memory.”