How Is Lyme Disease Treated?
In its early stages, Lyme disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Sooner such therapy is begun following infection, the quicker and more complete the recovery will be. Antibiotics, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin taken orally for two to four weeks, can speed the healing of the rash and can usually prevent arthritis or neurological problems. There is no evidence that prolonged antibiotic therapy is more effective than two weeks of therapy. Prolonged antibiotic use may have serious side effects.
Intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be used for more serious cases and for someone whose nervous system has been affected. Lyme disease with arthritis also can be treated with antibiotics.
Patients younger than 9 years or pregnant or lactating women with Lyme disease are treated with amoxicillin or penicillin because doxycycline can stain the permanent teeth developing in young children or unborn babies. Patients allergic to penicillin are given erythromycin.
Doctors prefer to treat Lyme disease patients experiencing heart symptoms with antibiotics such as Rocephin, Claforan, or penicillin given intravenously for about two weeks. If these symptoms persist or are severe enough, patients may also be treated with corticosteroids or given a temporary internal cardiac pacemaker. People with Lyme disease rarely experience long-term heart damage.
Following treatment for Lyme disease, some people still have persistent fatigue and achiness. This general malaise can take months to slowly disappear.
How Can I Prevent Getting Lyme Disease?
Fortunately, the cause of Lyme disease is known and the disease can be prevented. Essential to prevention is the avoidance of deer ticks. Although generally only about one percent of all deer ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacterium, in some areas more than half of them harbor the microbe.
Most people with Lyme disease become infected during the late spring, summer, and early autumn when immature ticks are out looking for their meal. Few people are bitten by deer ticks during winter months.
Deer ticks are most often found in wooded areas and nearby grasslands, and are especially common where the two areas merge, including neighborhood yards where deer occasionally roam. Ticks do not survive long on sunny lawns..
Try these tips to prevent tick bites:
- Wear long sleeves and tightly woven clothing that is light in color when walking in woody areas so the ticks can be seen more easily.
- Wear your shirt tucked into your pants, and your pants tucked into your socks or boots.
- Walk in the center of trails through the woods to avoid picking up ticks from overhanging grass and brush.
- Keep grass trimmed as short as possible.
- Apply tick repellents with DEET to your clothing, shoes and socks before going out. Another tick repellent called permethrin, can be used alone or in combination with DEET. (Although highly effective, these repellents can cause some serious side effects, particularly when high concentrations are used repeatedly on the skin. Infants and children may be especially at risk for adverse reactions.)
- Check yourself, your family, and your pets routinely for ticks, especially after a trip outdoors.
- Shower and shampoo your hair if you think you may have been exposed to ticks.
- Check your clothes for ticks and wash them immediately in order to remove any ticks.
- If an infected tick bites, it will not transmit the infection until it has had the opportunity to have its blood meal. This takes time, thus newly attached ticks can be easily removed before they transmit the infection.
Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid ticks in Lyme disease areas because the infection can be transferred to the unborn child. Such a prenatal infection can make the woman more likely to miscarry.
Preventative antibiotics are not generally used following all tick bites, but may be used in some special circumstances; a recent study showed that such preventive use of antibiotics is very effective.
Is There a Vaccine for Lyme Disease?
In 1998, the FDA approved a vaccine for Lyme disease called LYMErix. FDA found no evidence that it was dangerous. However, in February 2002, the makers of the vaccine pulled it off the market due to poor sales. Currently, there is no available vaccine on the market for Lyme disease.
What Is the Outlook for People With Lyme Disease?
Most people with Lyme disease respond well to antibiotic therapy and recover fully. Some people may have persistent symptoms or symptoms that reappear, making further antibiotic treatment necessary. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause permanent damage to the heart, nervous system, and joints.
The disease can strike more than once in the same individual if he or she is bitten by another tick and re-infected with the Lyme disease bacterium. The antibody test usually remains positive for months to many years after an infection. The presence of antibodies in the blood is not sufficient reason for continued or retreatment with antibiotics.
How to manage PTLDS
It is normal to feel overwhelmed by your ongoing symptoms. Some things that may help you manage your PTLDS include:
- Check with your doctor to make sure that Lyme disease is not the only thing affecting your health.
- Become well-informed. There is a lot of inaccurate information available, especially on the internet. Learn how to sort through this maze.
- Track your symptoms. It can be helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms, sleep patterns, diet, and exercise to see how these influence your well being.
- Maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of rest.
- Share your feelings. If your family and friends can’t provide the support you need, talk with a counselor who can help you find ways of managing your life during this difficult time. As with any illness, Lyme disease can affect you and your loved ones. It doesn’t mean that your symptoms are not real. It means that you are a human being who needs extra support in a time of need.
How to remove a tick
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Avoid traditional remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.