Lyme disease is an illness transmitted by the deer tick. The deer tick is smaller and less common than the dog or wood tick. Not all deer ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and even if you are bitten by an infected deer tick, there is only a small chance that you will get the disease. It is believed that the tick must be attached to your body for more than 24 hours for it to transmit the disease. It is important to remove any tick as soon as you can.
An unusual looking, bull’s eye skin rash called “erythema migrans” is the most common early symptom of Lyme disease. The skin rash appears in most (75%) but not all patients with the disease. It is usually seen in the area where the tick has bitten you—most commonly thighs, buttocks, armpits, back, scalp and neck. It may take up to one month for the skin rash to appear and it is often overlooked because it is neither painful nor itchy. It looks like an expanding red circle with clear skin in the center. Usually other symptoms appear soon after the rash; fever, headache, body aches and fatigue are the most common. You may also get sore throat, swollen glands or a stiff neck. Joint pain may occur but this is usually a later symptom of untreated disease.
There is a blood test for Lyme disease, but it may not be positive in the early stages of the disease. The decision to treat is usually based on the presence of symptoms and physical findings. If the diagnosis is not clear, blood tests may be helpful, but they may need to be repeated at intervals to detect developing infection.
The best treatment is prevention. Use tick repellant and wear long clothing when walking in the woods or tall grass, and check carefully for ticks after you have been in these areas. Keep outdoor pets off sofas and beds.
If you do get bitten by a deer tick a single dose of antibiotic may decrease your chance of getting infected. If you develop Lyme disease it is easily treated with a 14 to 21 day course of any one of several common antibiotics which we can prescribe for you.