As we move into the month of May, spring is in full swing and summer is visible on the horizon. This time of year is also significant for Lyme patients and their families, since May is Lyme Disease Awareness month. Lyme activists around the world use the 31 days of May to engage in a variety of activities designed to promote awareness about the disease and raise funds for its continued research. Lyme is a controversial subject that needs all the attention it can get; as it’s still not fully legitimised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical opinions and expertise on it vary wildly across the world. As relevant as Lyme Disease Awareness Month is, some proponents are suggesting moving it from May to April. Why is that, and is it a good idea?
May was traditionally targeted because mid-spring is the season where ticks come out in force, and remain out in force until the fall. This is their prime season for dissemination, as when the weather turns colder, they cannot survive. Lyme is spread through these tick bites, from ticks infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria; as people head outdoors more in the warmer weather, the likelihood of being bitten by a tick increases dramatically, especially in rural areas. Ticks favour woodlands and tall grass, where they latch on to hosts through a process known as ‘questing’. Essentially, it involves the tick hanging onto a blade of grass or branch with its back legs, while extending its front legs forward in the hope of hooking onto an animal or human passing by.
The whole aim of Lyme Disease Awareness Month is to inform people about the dangers of Lyme, and the risk of exposing themselves to ticks. However, some experts are suggesting that May might be too late in the year to raise Lyme awareness, and that April is in fact the key month to alert the general public about the inherent dangers associated with the disease, and detail exactly how they might catch it. Due to global warming, many ticks are active earlier in the year, due to the warmer weather. They are also surviving longer than usual into the fall. An increased period of activity in the spring, summer and early fall means that ticks also have more opportunity to migrate further, creating further risk to people outdoors.
But why is it so important to inform people before they might contract Lyme disease? This has to do with the dangers of chronic Lyme, an advanced form of the disease which presents with different symptoms than the acute stage. The latter only lasts for a number of days to weeks, and symptoms are very similar to the common flu. They might not be especially severe, and can easily subside without the patient thinking they have anything seriously wrong. Acute Lyme is also accompanied by a bullseye rash in many cases, and although this is a definitive symptom of the disease, it is also easily missed. If acute Lyme is detected while the flu-like symptoms are still present, then it can be fairly easily dealt with via a course of antibiotics. If it is overlooked and given the opportunity to develop into chronic Lyme however, the symptoms can be far more severe and debilitating.
If a patient is bitten by a tick in April and passes through the acute Lyme stage, it is too late to treat the disease successfully. Giving the Borrelia bacteria any chance whatsoever to establish a chronic presence in the system can result in many years of recurring symptoms. This is compounded by the fact that chronic Lyme varies wildly from patient to patient; symptoms can include any variation of joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, neurological problems and cardiac issues, ranging from mild to severe. On top of this, it may take symptoms months or even years to emerge. Because chronic Lyme is essentially an interplay between the bacteria and the immune system, with many symptoms being actively caused by an overactive immune response, it’s incredibly hard to both diagnose and treat.
Treatment still includes a round of antibiotics to allay the main infection, but tackling the malfunctioning immune response requires a totally different approach. It can take a long time to fully reduce the chronic inflammation symptoms, but natural supplements, balanced with the right diet, can help support treatment. Make Well offers a wide variety of all-natural supplements that can help support the long-term treatment of chronic diseases such as Lyme. Treatment can be a long process; this is why catching Lyme in the acute stages is of paramount importance for both doctors, and potential patients.
When it comes to Lyme disease, the best prevention is information, as early as possible. Lyme cases are on the rise every year, which is alarming in one sense, yet reassuring in others. Although it shows that instances of the disease are increasing, it also indicates that it’s becoming more validated in the eyes of patients; people are becoming more and more aware of Lyme, and are reporting it more to their doctors. Starting the awareness drive earlier in the year makes a lot of sense, as it gives people time to inform themselves about the risks and dangers, and make allowances for any potentially dangerous activities or excursions they may be planning. It’s also important to bear in mind that Lyme disease has been detected on every continent in the world, in many countries in Europe, and in every state in America. Spreading as much information as possible is the goal of Lyme Disease Awareness Month; the earlier this happens in the season, the better.