‘Ticked Off’: Do you have Lyme disease?

87849470 - closeup of a tick on a finger.Are you dealing with unexplained fatigue, muscle aches, memory loss and mental fogginess, or other unexplained symptoms? The issue could be Lyme disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease? It’s important to know the answer, because left untreated Lyme disease, can cause serious and debilitating illness and disability. Symptoms can mimic those of stroke, painful cases of arthritis, chronic illness, and issues that lead to a loss of proper brain function. But early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk, and preserve your health.

Not sure you’re at risk? Chances are, the possibility you might be exposed is greater than you might expect. According to the experts at the Centers for Disease Control, the incidence of confirmed cases of Lyme disease has climbed dramatically in the last few years. A recent study shows that cases increased more than 80% from 2004-2016, from 19,804 to 36,429.

So, what exactly IS Lyme disease? It’s a cluster of symptoms and illness caused by the transmission of a harmful bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, through the bite of a black-legged or deer tick.

What are the symptoms? Lyme disease can feel like a summer cold or flu, without the respiratory symptoms. A person might feel fatigue, fever, chills, muscle aches, joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Left untreated, symptoms can progress to include:

  • Heart palpitations, or irregular heartbeats;
  • Severe headaches and/or neck stiffness, and sometimes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord;
  • Joint pain and stiffness that feels like severe arthritis, and/or shooting pains;
  • Numbness and/or tingling in the hands and feet;
  • Rashes; and
  • Loss of muscle tone or “drooping” on one side of the face.

Even worse, when left untreated Lyme disease can lead to ongoing health issues that can include mental confusion, sleep disturbances, and severe fatigue.

So, how do you know if you’ve been exposed, or if you have Lyme disease? It can be difficult to tell, primarily because sometimes the first symptoms may show up weeks after you (or your pet) have been bitten. Moreover, ticks can be the size of a poppy seed — which makes them really hard to spot.

If you do develop symptoms, including redness at the bite site that looks like a bullseye, or find a tick on your skin or clothes, you should have your doctor run tests to be sure. Many early cases can be cleared with antibiotics.

How are people exposed? Often people take precautions when they go hiking, camping, hunting, or do other planned outdoor activities. They wear long sleeves, and maybe even bug spray. But experts are finding that most people are exposed to tick bites in their own backyard, while doing yard work, gardening, or just playing outside. Pets are another source of exposure. Often, ticks will hitch a ride on your dog — leaving you vulnerable to bites and transmission of the disease.

Again, it’s possible to contract Lyme disease and not know for months after exposure. It’s worth your health to explore all of the possibilities if you’re experiencing unexplained symptoms.

Be aware, that the accuracy of blood tests can vary based on the timing of your exposure. So, if you haven’t yet developed antibodies in your blood to the infection, the test could come back negative. Ongoing treatment and screening by a trusted medical professional should include follow-ups if you think you’ve been exposed, or may be having symptoms.

For that reason, it’s important to visit medical professionals that take a holistic approach to wellness. Whether or not you find a tick, your doctor should take any symptoms that might be Lyme disease seriously, and offer you follow up screening to rule out the disease and stop further progression when appropriate.

Finally, you can take steps to prevent the illness. While you shouldn’t be afraid to get outdoors, you should certainly take proper common sense precautions. Wear long sleeves and pants, check yourself after spending time outside (even if you’re just out in the backyard) and be sure to keep an eye on your pets.

Also, know your body. Unexplained symptoms should never be ignored. If you are feeling unwell, it’s worth a trip to visit your trusted provider to rule out issues and find holistic solutions.

At Proactive Wellness, we will provide a complete screening and counseling if you think you might have Lyme disease to rule out any issues and prevent a progressive worsening and risk to your long-term health.

Finally, if you have any questions about your health please don’t hesitate to give us a call! Check out our website for more information, as well. We want to partner with you to find solutions that work, and help you to live your most active life.