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Lyme disease leaves a lasting impact

Category: Infectious Diseases

Lyme disease can be caused by the single bite of a tiny tick, but that in no way means it's a small problem. This disease can result in symptoms that stick around long after a person has been bitten, and they can seriously impact his or her daily life. This is why it's important for anyone who discovers a tick on their body to receive Lyme disease blood testing to get treatment as soon as possible.

While many people have probably heard of Lyme disease, they may not understand just how much of an impact it can make on a person's life. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, if left untreated Lyme disease can spread to the brain, heart and joints.

Far-reaching consequences
Recently, The Patriot-News spoke to Eric Huck, a man who contracted Lyme disease in 2009, and is still struggling to control his symptoms years later. Huck told the news source that he had been hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he noticed that there were two ticks embedded in his body, and they were engorged.

He asked his friends for help to remove them from his body, and then went to the doctor where he was prescribed 10 days of doxycycline, the standard antibiotic for Lyme disease, but merely as a preventative measure. Huck thought that he would never have to think of this event again, until a few months later he became violently ill. As he described it, he had high fever, an excruciating headache, a stiff neck and severe aches all over his body.

Days later Huck broke out in bulls-eye rashes, which is a tell-tale symptom of Lyme disease. When he went to the doctor, the medical professional insisted that Huck couldn't have Lyme disease because he had taken the doxycycline. However, Huck began looking into the signs of Lyme disease and became frightened when he realized what might happen to him if his doctor was wrong and he did not seek further treatment.

"I began researching this and reading that the Lyme bacteria - Borrelia burgdorferi - can hide, change shapes, go dormant and create a biofilm to encase itself in order to survive in the body," Huck told the Patriot-News . "It's the great imitator. It's misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's, autism, arthritis, Parkinson's, chronic fatigue [and multiple sclerosis]."

The news source added that whether to treat Lyme disease on a long-term basis has been a controversial subject since a review panel convened in 2010 declared "there is no convincing evidence for the existence of chronic Lyme infection." The Patriot-News spoke to John Goldman, M.D., infectious disease specialist with PinnacleHealth System, who explained that rather than being an active infection, Lyme disease is a syndrome that can leave people feeling the effects of an infection for a long time. He said he treats persistent Lyme disease the same way he would fibromyalgia - with anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants.

Preventing Lyme disease
The American Lyme Disease Foundation recommends that people who want to prevent Lyme disease wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing while walking through wooded areas. The light color is important because it will allow people to spot ticks easily. The Foundation also suggests using bug repellent, keeping long hair tied back and avoiding sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.

A tick must be attached to the body for 24 to 36 hours to spread Lyme disease, but people who find one on their bodies should get Lyme disease blood tests as soon as possible.

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