Lyme disease is caused by infection of the 4 main bacterial species:
- Borrelia burgdorferi
- Borrelia mayonii
- Borrelia afzelii
- Borrelia garinii
The bacteria are spread via a tick bite, from an infected tick. The disorder is more common in grassy, heavily wooded areas.
When a black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, gets infected with one of the species of Borrelia, it can transmit the bacteria to a healthy human individual by biting them. The bacteria penetrate the skin through the bite and eventually enter the human’s bloodstream. For the tick to actually transmit the infection, it must be attached to the bite site for at least 36-48 hours.
The symptoms for Lyme disease can be divided into two stages:
- Early stage signs and symptoms:
- Rash – expanding red rash, that clears in the center forming a bulls-eye pattern
- Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, body ache)
- Late stage signs and symptoms:
- Erythema migrans
- Joint pain
- Neurological problems such as meningitis (Inflammation of meninges), Bell’s palsy (temporary paralysis of half face), numbness and weakness of extremities
- Nausea and vomiting
Since the symptoms of Lyme disease are often nonspecific, it is not very easy to diagnose the disease by history and physical exam. However, once there is a suspicion of Lyme disease, the following tests can help confirm the diagnosis:
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) – detects antibodies against the bacteria
- Western blot – detects antibodies against the bacteria
The treatment of Lyme disease is done through antibiotics.