Lyme Disease Antibiotic Treatments
Lyme disease is named after the Connecticut towns of Lyme and Old Lyme where several cases of the bacterial infection were identified in 1975. Although it was suggested that Lyme disease was tick-borne as far back as 1978, the actual cause of the disease remained undetermined until 1981. A failure to correctly diagnose or treat the disorder can lead to a serious condition that can be disabling and more difficult to treat with antibiotics.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection that develops as the result of a specific tick bite. In the U.S., two types of ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease: deer ticks and western black-legged ticks, which are found along the Pacific Coast. Not every tick carries the bacteria, and most people who are bitten by ticks do not contract the disease.
In addition to avoiding tick-infested areas and wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, removing ticks as soon as you notice them is one of the most important things you can do to prevent infection. That's because the ticks that carry the bacteria typically don't spread the disease until they've been attached to your skin for at least 36 hours.
Signs and Symptoms
Lyme disease occurs in stages, and the signs and symptoms you experience can vary based on the stage:
- Stage 1 - A rash, typically a round, red rash that spreads over time, may occur at the site of the tick bite. Headache, stiff neck, fever and fatigue may be present. Some people have no symptoms during stage 1.
- Stage 2 - Weakness and discomfort in the arms and legs as well as forgetfulness may occur.
- Stage 3 - Joint pain and swelling similar to arthritis, facial muscle tics, weakness and paralysis, and numbness in the feet, hands or back are possible symptoms.
The symptoms of Lyme disease may occur within a few days to as long as a month after the initial tick bite. Left untreated, symptoms can become progressively worse, causing long-term disabilities.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis begins with a thorough examination and medical history. If you removed the insect, you can place the tick in a jar or plastic bag and take it to your dermatologist for examination. If you are unaware of having been bitten, the doctor may ask about recent activities that may have resulted in exposure. Although a round, red rash is a telltale sign of the infection, your doctor may also order a blood test to check for the presence of antibodies that indicate the disease is present.
Once the disease is identified, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. The type of medication and the length of time you'll need to take it will be based on the stage of the disease that you're experiencing.
When treated early, Lyme disease symptoms typically resolve within a few weeks. When treated in a later stage, non-steroidal antibiotics (NSAIDs) may be added to the antibiotic regimen to help reduce symptoms such as painful or swollen joints. Other treatments may be necessary to address heart problems or problems with the nervous system that may occur in the later stages of the disease.
Outcomes and Follow-up
Getting treatment early is the key to a faster recovery. Without treatment, you may develop chronic problems with your heart, nervous system, skin or joints. You may not notice any symptoms or problems until weeks or months after the initial bite. However, in most cases, these issues will resolve with antibiotics, but in some cases, the damage can be permanent.
Having had Lyme disease once does not mean you are immune to getting it again. Always take precautions when entering areas where ticks may be present, and be vigilant for the first telltale symptoms of the disease. If you suspect Lyme disease, contact a Metropolitan Dermatology practice near you in Clark, Kearny, Teaneck and Staten Island and schedule a consultation with our dermatologists.