What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a progressive, systemic illness that is caused by bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) and is usually transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Infection may result in flu-like symptoms (e.g., malaise, fever, headache, fatigue, muscle pain) and the characteristic “bull’s eye” rash at the site of the bite. As the disease progresses, it may cause arthritis and affect the heart and central nervous system. (See below for Lyme disease treatment information.)
What is the incidence and prevalence of Lyme Disease?
More than 16,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year in the United States. It is endemic throughout the wooded coastal regions of the Northeast, the Great Lakes, and the Pacific Northwest. In the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, the disease is more prevalent from May to August. In the Pacific Northwest, it is more prevalent from January to May.
What are the causes and risk factors of Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by infection with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. In the Northeast and North Central United States, the deer tick (loxodes scapularis) is responsible for transmission and in the Northwest; the western black-legged tick (loxodes pacificus) is responsible.
The ticks that cause Lyme disease are very small. They live in wooded areas; low-growing grasslands near sea shores, areas overgrown with brush, and in residential yards and parks. The adult ticks are black or reddish and feed on blood by attaching themselves to a host.
The risk for contracting Lyme disease in the United States is highest in the coastal region of southern New England, the mid-Atlantic, and the Great Lakes. During the summer months, people who live or work outdoors (e.g., clearing brush, forestry, landscaping) in endemic areas are especially at risk. Ticks can also come into contact with people when they attach themselves to pets.
What are the dermatological signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease?
In 60-80% of those with Lyme disease, the characteristic “bull’s eye” rash will develop, typically within 7 to 14 days of infection. The rash begins as a red area at the site of the tick bite and gradually expands, often with central clearing, which produces the bull’s eye. It can last from a few hours to several weeks and varies in size. Other types of rash have been noted, some of which resemble hives, eczema, sunburn, poison ivy, and flea bites. Dark-skinned people may develop a rash that resembles a bruise. The bulls’ eye rash may itch, disappear, and then return weeks later. In some cases, a single bite can cause the rash to occur on several areas of the body.
How is Lyme Disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Lyme disease is made based on clinical symptoms and case history, and is confirmed using laboratory tests.
Lyme Disease Treatment
Early stages of Lyme disease usually are treated with antibiotics. Oral antibiotics commonly used for lyme disease treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil, while some patients with neurological or cardiac forms of Lyme disease may require intravenous treatment. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has conducted numerous studies on the treatment of Lyme disease which indicate that the majority of patients fully recover when treated with a few weeks of administration of oral antibiotics.
Statistics show that 10-20% of patients (primarily those who had a delayed diagnosis), following standard antibiotic care, may continue to have signs and symptoms. These patients are then considered to have Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).
Additional information on prolonged treatment for Lyme disease is also available through the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/treatment/prolonged/index.html.
Do you see patients for Lyme Disease treatment in your Reno office?
Yes. We evaluate and treat patients who are presenting with skin conditions related to lyme disease. Appointment length varies and depends on severity of condition, outward signs and other contributing factors, but is usually not more than 15 minutes in duration.
For more information, or to set up a consultation with Dr. Jennifer Janiga for lyme disease evaluation and treatment in our Reno/Tahoe dermatology office, please send us an email or call 775-398-4600.