Font Size
A
A
A
1
...

Lyme Disease


Topic Overview

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection that is spread by ticks. You can get Lyme disease if you are bitten by an infected tick. But most people who have had a tick bite don't get Lyme disease. It's still important to see your doctor if you have a tick attached to you that you can't remove.

Lyme disease is common in the United States. It can also be found in Canada, Europe, and Asia.

What causes Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. Infected ticks spread the bacteria by biting people or animals.

Two types of ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria in the U.S. They are:

  • Deer ticksClick here to see an illustration.. They spread the disease in the Northeast and Midwest.
  • Western black-legged ticksClick here to see an illustration.. They spread the disease along the Pacific coast, mostly in northern California and Oregon.

Remove ticksClick here to see an illustration. as soon as you notice them. Infected ticks usually don't spread Lyme disease until they have been attached for at least 36 hours.

What are the symptoms?

One sign of Lyme disease is a round, red rashClick here to see an illustration. that spreads at the site of a tick bite. This rash can get very large.

Flu-like symptoms are also common. People in the early stages of Lyme disease may feel very tired and have headaches, sore muscles and joints, and a fever.

These symptoms can start at any time, from 3 days to up to a month after you have been bitten. Some people don't have any symptoms when they are in the early stages of Lyme disease. And they may not even remember getting a tick bite.

If Lyme disease goes untreated, you can have more serious symptoms over time. These include:

  • Swelling and joint pain (like arthritis).
  • Tingling and numbness in your hands, feet, and back.
  • A lack of energy that does not get better.
  • Trouble focusing your thoughts.
  • Poor memory.
  • Weakness or paralysis in your face muscles.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. Your doctor will also ask about your activities to try to find out if you have been around infected ticks. You may have a blood test to see if you have certain antibodies in your blood that could mean you have the disease.

How is it treated?

The main treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. These medicines usually cure Lyme disease within 3 weeks of starting treatment.

It's important to get treatment for Lyme disease as soon as you can. If it goes untreated, Lyme disease can lead to problems with your skin, joints, nervous system, and heart. These can occur weeks, months, or even years after your tick bite. The problems often get better with antibiotics, but in rare cases they can last the rest of your life.

Can you prevent Lyme disease?

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to protect yourself from ticks. Cover up as much skin as you can when you're going to be in wooded or grassy areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks. And keep in mind that it's easier to see ticks on light-colored clothes.

Use a bug repellent that has a chemical (such as DEET, IR3535, or Picaridin) to keep away ticks. Check your pets for ticks after they've been outside. You can't get Lyme disease from your pet. But your pet can bring infected ticks inside. These ticks can fall off your pet and attach to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about Lyme disease:

  • What is Lyme disease?
  • What causes it?
  • Can I prevent it?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • What happens in Lyme disease?
  • What increases my risk for it?

Being diagnosed:

  • Who can diagnose Lyme disease?
  • How is it diagnosed?
  • What is a Lyme disease test?
  • Can Lyme disease be misdiagnosed?

Getting treatment:

  • How is Lyme disease treated?
  • What medicines will I need to take?

Ongoing concerns:

  • What complications can develop?
1
...

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.





Medical Dictionary