Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease that affects several thousand people every year. It commonly advances in three stages, with the ultimate symptoms causing brain damage. The disease can be prevented and treated, often very successfully.
The Ixodes tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. This tick can be identified by its signature black legs and is found primarily in a handful of US states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Cases have been reported in all 50 US states, however, as well as in Canada, Europe, and Asia. When a tick bites, the bacteria that lives within it “jumps ship” to the person being bitten, and enters the person's bloodstream. The initial result is a rash, and the disease proceeds from there.
The first stage is called the localized stage and involves symptoms that go no further than the area immediately surrounding the initial bite point. A red-ringed rash appears at the bite point and can last up to five weeks. Other symptoms of this stage include fatigue, headaches and general achiness, joint pain, and swelling of lymph glands near the bite point.
The second stage, or early disseminated stage, begins anywhere from two weeks to three months after the initial bite. Symptoms include a rash in areas nowhere near the bite point, severe fatigue and headaches, irregular heartbeat, fever, sensitivity to light, and sometimes even facial paralysis.
The last stage is called the late stage. The appearance of the symptoms in this stage can range from a few weeks to a few years after the initial bite. Arthritis, especially in the knees, is a common symptom. An extreme complication in the late stage is a decrease in cognitive function.
Lyme disease can usually be treated, and with earlier it's detected, the more effective and less severe the treatment will be. In most cases, treatment consists of oral and/or intravenous antibiotics to combat the bacteria that is the cause of the disease. The vast majority of sufferers experience a complete eradication of the bacteria quickly once the antibiotics kick in. Medical professional also urge prevention techniques to avoid this disease in the first place.