Lyme disease, an inflammatory disease caused by bacteria transmitted by ticks, infects an increasing number of people. The disease has become difficult to treat and researchers recently found that long-term antibiotic use failed to reduce its symptoms. Here is everything you need to know about Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. The infection is usually transmitted by ticks — spider-like creatures typically found in woodland and heath areas. They feed on the blood of birds, mammals and even humans.

An estimated 25,359 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2014 with 8,102 probable cases. The state of Pennsylvania reported the most number of cases in 2014 with 6,470 confirmed cases followed by Massachusetts with 3,646 confirmed cases.

Early diagnosis of the disease is crucial for effective treatment. If it's detected early on, medicines can be prescribed to prevent long-term and severe symptoms or complications.

Lyme Disease Signs And Symptoms

Knowing the early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease is important. The disease starts off with a small, red bump that appears at the site of a tick bite. It disappears after a few days but the sign and symptoms of a full-blown Lyme disease may appear after a month of being bitten.

A rash might appear from three to 30 days after an infected tick bite. The rash, called erythema migrans, spread slowly over the next few days. The rash is usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, chills, body pains and headache.

If the infection is left untreated, later signs and symptoms may appear including neck stiffness, severe headaches, arthritis with severe joint pains, facial or Bell's palsy and a heart problem called Lyme carditis.

Dizziness, shortness of breath, brain inflammation and problems with memory could also be affected.

How Is It Treated?

Lyme disease can be treated through antibiotics. Usually, a course of two to four weeks is recommended depending on the stage and severity of the infection.

In severe cases when the infection has spread throughout the body, intravenous antibiotics will be prescribed in the hope to stem the infection.

Preventing Tick Bites

Prevention is crucial than the cure itself. At present, there is still no available vaccine to prevent Lyme disease and the only available means is through avoiding tick bites.

1.    Wear proper clothes when visiting tick-infested areas. A long-sleeved shirt and pants tucked into the socks could be worn.

2.    When you need to go outdoors, sticking to walking on footpaths and preventing traversing grassy fields are recommended.

3.    In terms of choosing clothing, stick to light-colored clothes to easily spot ticks.

4.    Use insect repellents on the exposed part of the skin.

5.    Check pets that went outside for ticks that are in their fur.

Photo: Oregon State University | Flickr

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