How a walk in the park can turn into a trip to the doctor

After a long winter, it’s hard to stay inside when you begin to see those first signs of spring. Temperatures are warmer, flowers are blooming, even animals are frolicking. The experts at Any Lab Test Now understand the desire to shake off winter’s coat and let the warm breezes and sunshine bathe you in bliss, but you need to proceed with caution. There’s a spreading danger out there that you will likely never see coming. It’s as small as a pinhead and can pack a punch that can turn your world upside down. We’re talking about ticks and a nasty disease that some of them can carry — Lyme disease.

The Spread of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by the bite of ticks. It causes more than 300,000 illnesses each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk of infection is greatest in late spring and summer. Of course, that’s the time we are all most likely to want to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors, but unfortunately, it also coincides with a very dangerous point in the life cycle of the tick.

Search for a Spring Snack

It turns out that most people are infected through the bites of immature ticks, called nymphs. Experts at the CDC believe that ticks become infected when they are still just considered larvae, but once they become infected, they stay infected for the rest of their two-year lifespan. When the larvae become nymphs, they begin furiously seeking blood meals to fuel their growth. That’s usually in the spring and summer months, just in time for you to enjoy a family hike or camping trip. Don’t think you are in the free and clear in the fall either. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease, and they are most active during the fall. They are much larger than nymphs though, and more likely to be spotted and removed before attaching to your skin.

You don’t have to be a prisoner in your own home. The experts at Any Lab Test Now have some tips that you can follow to help you take control of your health AND help you enjoy the great outdoors.

Use insect repellant and perform daily tick checks. Look everywhere! Nymphs are tiny and can easily be mistaken for a speck of dirt. Have someone check your scalp, the back of your neck, and all the places you can’t see. If you spot a tick, remove it immediately with a pair of tweezers. The CDC says ticks are usually attached for a day before they release the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Recognize the early symptoms of Lyme disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can help you avoid complications that can appear later if the disease is not treated. Here’s what to look for:

  • Bull’s-eye rash
  • Fatigue
  • Chills and fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Does this sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the flu, and it can often be mistaken for that. If you’ve been bitten by a tick or develop the rash, it might not be the flu.

Recognize late symptoms of Lyme disease. If left untreated, the problems associated with the disease will worsen. Often patients experience bouts of arthritis, especially in the knees. There can sometimes be nerve paralysis and even meningitis. Many patients report suffering from “brain fog.” Others have reported heart arrhythmias and eye inflammations.

Take Control; Get Tested

Any Lab Test Now offers a simple blood test that will help detect and measure antibodies that the body produces in an attempt to fight the disease. The presence of antibodies cannot always determine if the Lyme disease infection is recent or due to a tick bite in the past, but it can put you and your doctor on the right path to helping you feel better. A special note: If your results are negative, but your symptoms are still present, it’s a good idea to perform a repeat test. It can take up to two months for antibodies to develop.

After getting your results at your local Any Lab Test Now, you should see your doctor. The good news is that Lyme disease can easily be treated with antibiotics.

Did You Know Lyme Disease And Other Tick-Borne Illnesses Are On The Rise?

Late summer and fall seems the perfect time for camping, hiking and enjoying the outdoors. Heading out to revel in the cooler evening temperatures and fall color, though can be hazardous to your health. Ticks have become more numerous especially in areas known for outdoor activities. Twenty years ago ticks were confined to certain regions in the Midwest and Northeast and if you weren’t going there, you knew that you didn’t need to worry. A couple years ago the CDC raised the expected number of cases of Lyme disease from 30,000 per year to 300,000 and they have redrawn their map of Lyme disease hot spots, including an increase from 69 to 260 counties in the northeast.

 

You may scoff at climate changes as not real, but some theorize that these changes are real and can be seen in the increase in ticks in areas they hadn’t been and in the exponential increase in tick-borne diseases.  Lyme disease is not the only disease that these pests carry, but it is the most well-known. And although it is well-known, many people do not realize that the disease can be deadly. The focus is usually on the fever and headache that is typical of the disease, but Lyme disease can also cause long term symptoms including vision problems, inflammation of the joints similar to rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation of the heart leading to “heart block”, an interruption of the heartbeat, which could cause sudden cardiac death.

 

In addition, some cases of Lyme disease are not caught early and may not respond well to antibiotics causing symptoms known as post treatment Lyme disease syndrome, often referred to as “chronic Lyme”. 10-20% of those infected have a cluster of lingering symptoms such as fatigue, trouble concentrating and muscle or joint aches after treatment. It is unclear whether the symptoms are due to an infection that was not eradicated with antibiotics or to damage that remains from the original infection.

 

The tick’s mechanism of biting ensures that they are often not felt. In a study conducted by Georgia Southern University, out of 258 students who had been bitten, only 4% of them were aware of the bites. Since only half of those who contract Lyme disease from a tick bite develop symptoms, many people carry Lyme disease around untreated for months or even years before realizing that this is causing their long term symptoms. Stories abound of people who contract Lyme disease but spend years trying to get a diagnosis, often because they don’t recall being bitten.

 

As if Lyme disease isn’t bad enough, ticks also carry other severe illnesses including babesiosis, a parasitic infection, sometimes called “America’s Malaria”, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis (also known as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) and a newly discovered infection that hasn’t even been named yet. Prevention is the best plan and as a whole, we need to get better at it:

 

  1. Check to see if ticks are prevalent, or becoming prevalent where you will be.
  2. Wear light colored clothing so that you can see ticks crawling on you.
  3. Tuck your pants into your socks.
  4. Use bug spray containing DEET or permethrin to deter them from attaching.
  5. Check your body and clothes for ticks when you come back inside.

If you suspect that you have been bitten, or have been in a tick heavy area, watch for symptoms including fever, headache and a rash around the site that resembles a bullseye. If you develop symptoms, get tested to determine if you have the antibodies to Lyme disease. The sooner you know that you have been infected the sooner you can start on a course of antibiotics to prevent long term side effects and illness. If you are dealing with post treatment Lyme disease syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis triggered by Lyme disease, treat it like chronic fatigue with good sleep and exercise habits as well as treatment for depression if needed.

Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Like many diseases, the success of treatment with Lyme disease heavily depends on the timing of treatment. If treated early, Lyme disease can be cured with a few weeks of receiving antibiotics. However, if left unnoticed and untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the body’s joints, heart and nervous system leading to many other serious health problems.

If you have had a recent tick bite or live in an area known for Lyme disease, please be aware of the following signs and symptoms:

Early Signs and Symptoms

During the time frame of three to thirty days post-tick bite, a person may notice a red expanding rash known as erythema migrans (EM). A person may also experience fatigue, chills, headaches, muscle or joint pain, chills and/or swollen lymph nodes. As weeks progress and treatment remains unsought, a person may experience heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in their heartbeat.

Late Signs and Symptoms

If the person infected is not treated for months or even years post-tick bite, they may experience arthritis symptoms including severe joint pain and swelling. Those left untreated for years are also at risk of developing chronic neurological conditions such as short-term memory loss and other cognitive difficulties.

If you have had a recent tick bite and think you may be at risk, contact your local Any Lab Test Now® today and schedule a Lyme Disease Test. We offer an antibody detection test which will measure the antibodies your body has produced, and we also offer our PCR tick panel that amplifies the bodies cellular DNA, which can also detect infection. With these quality results, you and your doctor will be able to determine if and what treatment is needed in order to maintain your optimal health.