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July 23, 2021

Little bugs pack a big bite: Understanding Lyme disease

IU Health Arnett Hospital

Little bugs pack a big bite: Understanding Lyme disease

As families spend more time outside, we cannot forget about all the bugs outside that can bite, specifically ticks that could cause Lyme disease. Indiana is in a medium risk area for transmission of Lyme Disease.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi (Deer tick). This is the most common vector-borne disease.

How do you get Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans from an infected deer tick bite. The tick must be attached and become engorged for a minimum of 24-48 hours for the disease to be transferred.

Learn the Signs & Symptoms

IU Health Arnett Sports Medicine physician assistant Marke Bickett, MCMSc, PA-C, ATC shares signs and symptoms of Lyme disease:

  • Rash that looks like a bull’s eye (known as erythema migrans)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Arthritis (swelling of the large joints in the body)
Lyme

Diagnosis

There are currently no laboratory tests for Lyme disease, and it is diagnosed through a clinical evaluation and based on the signs and symptoms and the history of where the patient has been lately and if they have traveled to endemic areas. There are however two tests that can be done to test for antibodies for Lyme disease present in the body. The two tests are the ELISA test and the Western Blot Test.

Treatment

Oral and intravenous (IV) antibiotics are used depending on the stage of the infection. Other non-specific symptoms are treated as they develop.

Prevention

  • Avoid wooded areas
  • Walk down the center of trails
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts that fit tightly around the ankles and wrists
  • Wear a hat
  • Tuck pant legs into socks
  • Wear shoes that do not expose feet
  • Wear light colored clothes to make finding ticks easier
  • Apply bug spray containing DEET

Tick Removal:

  • Use tweezers and grab the tick at a place of attachment as close to the skin as possible
  • Gently pull the tick straight out and away from the skin
  • If mouthparts of the tick do not come out leave them and the body will eventually eliminate them
  • Wash area with an antiseptic
  • Kill tick in a jar with alcohol
Marke Bickett, MCMSc, PA-C, ATC

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