What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the bite of a blacklegged tick (aka deer tick) that is infected with a certain type of bacteria. The four species of bacteria that cause Lyme disease include:
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Borrelia mayonii
  • Borrelia afzelii
  • Borrelia garinii
Borrelia burgdoferi and Borrelia mayonii are the leading cause of Lyme disease in the United States, while Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are the leading cause of Lyme disease in Europe and Asia. If Lyme disease goes undetected/untreated it can spread to the joints, heart, and/or the nervous system. An iconic and early sign of Lyme disease is a bullseye shaped rash. People who frequently spend time outside, especially in wooded or grassy areas, are more likely to catch Lyme disease. In addition, Lyme disease can affect people of all ages. Insect repellants and protective clothing may be helpful in preventing exposure to infected ticks. 
Risk factors
  • Spending time in wooded or grassy areas
  • Not removing ticks from one’s skin in time: Bacteria from an infected tick can enter the bloodstream if the tick stays on for 36-48 hours or more. 
  • Having exposed skin when outside in an area where ticks are common such as in tall grasses or forests.
  • Having pets that go outside and could possibly bring in infected ticks. 
Diagnosis of Lyme disease will likely include a complete medical history and physical exam by your doctor. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease could also be indicative of other conditions so diagnosis can be difficult especially if one doesn’t have the typical bullseye rash associated with Lyme disease. 
Some tests that may be done to diagnose Lyme disease include:
  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is a blood test that is used to detect antibodies to one of the types of bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that cause Lyme disease. It cannot be used as a definitive diagnosis because it can sometimes provide false positives. 
  • Western blot test is a blood test that is done after the ELISA test to confirm the diagnosis. 
Treatment options for Lyme disease include:
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Intravenous antibiotics 
  • Approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. 
  • If left untreated, there is about a 60% chance that one will develop arthritis (Lyme arthritis)
  • Depending on the area, anywhere from less than 1% to greater than 50% of ticks can be infected with Lyme disease
about Lyme disease

  • "Lyme disease." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 03 Apr. 2016. Web. 04 Nov. 2017.
  • “Lyme Disease.” Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2017.
  • “Lyme Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 14 Aug. 2017. Web. 04 Nov. 2017. 
  • “About Lyme Disease.” LymeDisease.org, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2017. 
  • “Lyme Disease.” The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Cleveland Clinic. 26 Nov. 2014. Web. 04 Nov. 2017. 



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