Even in its acute stages, Lyme Disease is a tough disorder to pin down – yet it affects millions of people all over the world every year. Upon casually hearing the name ‘Lyme Disease’, many associate it with America; and while there are significant numbers of Lyme cases in the U.S., Europe is almost equally besieged by the disease, albeit a slightly different variant. Lyme is transferred to humans by ticks; in the U.S. the carrier is the black-legged tick, otherwise known as the deer tick. In Europe, the sheep tick, or castor bean tick, is the responsible insect. In China, it’s the taiga tick. These ticks all carry spirochetes bacteria from the genus Borrelia, which is the instigator of Lyme Disease; they acquire them from an assortment of small mammals and birds.
Ticks are adept at hiding themselves once they latch on to a host; they won’t immediately start feeding the moment they make contact, choosing instead to migrate to darker, more secluded areas of the body. They also secrete a mild anaesthetic, which means the host won’t feel the bite and subsequent feeding. Once they had enough of their blood meal, they’ll drop off the body naturally; some people never even know they were there.
Unfortunately, others do, as symptoms of Lyme will start presenting themselves shortly after the tick departs. Though only a fraction of people bitten by a tick will contract Lyme (roughly 1.2 – 2.8 percent, even in Lyme-prevalent areas), the disease can be tough to spot as initially, as it mimics the symptoms of a flu or common cold. The best indicator of Lyme is undoubtedly the distinctive bullseye rash, unique to a Borrelia infection alone; it presents as a red rash encircled by a red ring (hence the ‘bullseye’ effect). This is the single most obvious symptom of Lyme, and spotting it early can lead to a full and rapid recovery. However, if you miss the tick bite and the rash, symptoms can become a little general, which is why it’s best to know exactly what to look out for.
Many of the following symptoms are flu-like; but if they’re paired with a rash, or if you’ve recently been outdoors in wooded or grassy areas, it’s best to get checked out and tested for Lyme. As with most diseases, the earlier you catch it, the better.
Generalised Aches and Pains
This is a classic indicator of an oncoming flu-like infection, and can seem to affect everything from muscles to bones. When it comes to Lyme, these aches can flare up anywhere in the body, but be particularly mindful about pains in-and-around joints.
Fever and Chills
One of the traditional symptoms of a flu infection is a rapid transition between sweaty fevers and deep chills. One moment it feels like you’ll never be warm again, the next thing you’re waking up in saturated sheets, struggling to fling the duvet off. Though fever and chills induced by Lyme might not be that extreme, they will still nonetheless be present as the virus makes its initial attack on your immune system.
There are many different forms of headaches, but flu-related ones are usually dull and achy, without being severely debilitating like a migraine or cluster headache. The same is true for a Lyme-induced headache; it will make your head feel heavy and unfocused with a dull throb, and won’t be explained away by tension or stress.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
The lymph system covers our entire bodies, weaving a complex network of glands across organs, tissue and bone. You can’t physically feel most of your lymph nodes; the ones in your neck are perhaps the most prominent, and are located right next to where you’d find your pulse. When your body is fighting any kind of infection, nodes up and down the lymphatic system will swell up in an effort to fight back against the intruder.
One of the best indicators of whether your symptoms are Lyme or flu comes down to the season; although summer colds are certainly legitimate, flu viruses are much less common during the sunny months than they are during the winter. Quite the opposite is true for Lyme, which is at its height in the summertime. If you suffer from an onset of symptoms while the sun is out, then make sure you speak to your doctor about a potential case of Lyme. If caught early, almost all patients make a full and rapid recovery. Natural supplements from an outlet like Make Well, who have a deep understanding of Lyme Disease in both its acute and chronic stages, can be a valuable tool to getting you healthy again.
The main weapon we have against Lyme is vigilance; be aware of the hazards of a tick bite, and if you suffer an onset of symptoms, especially with a rash, then get checked out as soon as you can. Lyme Disease isn’t fatal, but it can become severely debilitating the longer it’s left in the body, so rapid action to combat the illness is essential.