Symptoms treatment and prevention of Lyme Disease

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Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi which can be transmitted to humans via ticks that live on animals. These ticks are known as Ixodes ricinus which are hard bodied often found on deer or sheep The disease was first discovered in the early twentieth century, but it wasn't until the 1970's the disease was first recognised when a series of cases in Lyme, Connecticut were indentified and diagnosed with Lyme arthritis. During 1977 Steere et. Al misdiagnosed Lyme disease as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. After the outbreak many research projects were carried out to identify what causes the disease. In 1982 the bacterium believed to cause the disease was found in the gut of the adult deer tick known as, Borrelia Burgdorferi. In 1984 The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention initiated surveillance strategies for Lyme disease. In 1988 the Lyme Disease Foundation LDF was set up to provide information about the disease. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists designated Lyme disease as a national disease in January 1991. Smith Kline Beecham received approval in 1999 to place 'LYMErix' vaccine on the market; however in 2002 it was soon removed.

The Health Protection Agency known as HPA have estimated that 1,000 - 2,000 cases of Lyme disease in the UK each year. Since the year 2000 on average of 15% of cases being reported in the UK have been infected when outside of the UK. The majority contracted diseases of out of UK cases have been infected in USA, France, Germany and many other northern countries. However the majority of cases reported are infected in common areas. The most common areas where a tick bite can occur is Exmoor, Then New Forest, The South Downs, Lake District, Yorkshire Moors and many other areas (Health Protection Agency 2011).

"Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria transmitted to people in the bite of infected Ixodes dammini or Ixodes pacificus ticks. These ticks require animal hosts, mainly the white-footed mouse and whitetailed deer. Up to 80 percent of people with Lyme disease develop a characteristic bull's-eye rash called erythema migrans. Additional symptoms mimic other illnesses, such as arthritis and heart disease." (FDA consumer 1991)

Lyme disease is an infection which is caused by a specific type of bacterium. The disease is often transmitted through ticks which can be found on many animals, ticks in their adult form live on deer's while in its immature form lives on white footed mice. Ticks only become infected with the Lyme disease by feeding on the blood of animals that are already infected with the disease. The tick usually bites humans when it is in the nymph stage which is the stage between larval and adults, at this stage the parasite is very small almost invisible to the eye therefore most people contract Lyme disease without ever realising they have been bitten. The tick does not usually enter the skin until it has been attached for 36 to 48 hours, the first symptom is a rash often found around the infected area, and however other symptoms can arise depending on the bodies' reaction to the parasite. People who at higher risk when coming in contact with the disease are children between the ages of 5 and 14 and adults aged 30 to 49. Also the higher risks of transmitting the disease are people who tend to work outdoors or spend a lot of recreational time outdoors e.g. campers and golfers. A preferred habitat for the tick borne infection to manifest is usually in temperatures in the northern hemisphere normally in the woodland and heath lands.

Although Lyme disease has been around for many years it is still an emerging disease as treatments and diagnosis are still being discovered. An emerging disease states that it is newly formed disease. Diagnosis methods are being indentified with brand new methods and development of older methods. Treatments are continuing to emerge with

"Conclude that Lyme disease is emerging in Canada, that effective, enhanced surveillance involving federal and provincial agencies needs to be instigated and that clinician awareness of Lyme disease will be crucial to minimizing its impact." (Nicholas H, Muhammad M, Paul N, 2009)

The symptoms of Lyme Disease tend to fall in three stages, early stage, mid stage and late stage. The early stage Lyme disease can usually show signs of fatigue, chills or fever, headache, muscle or joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and erythema migrans, with more than one of the symptoms visible at this stage. Erythema migrans are bulls eyes rash that develops where the tick has normally bitten. These symptoms usually develop between 3 - 30 days of being bitten. The mid stage is when the infection of the bacteria has spread and is affecting certain bodily functions; these symptoms do not normally develop until months after being bitten. The majority of cases in this stage will have similar symptoms to arthritis, joint pain and inflammation of joints. Other cases can show signs of numbness in limbs, paralysis to face muscles, impaired memory, difficulty concentrating and a change in personality. However during this stage some people may develop Meningitis which can cause stiff neck, fever and severe headache. The late stage can also be known as the chronic stage can show signs of Chronic Lyme Arthritis which is swelling and pain occurring in the larger joints, nervous system problems and chronic pain in the muscles. Lyme disease only reaches the late stage after antibiotics have not worked or the disease has been left untreated. (Jody Kinsley, Maria Johnson - Lyme Disease).

Diagnosing Lyme disease is a difficult process often meaning many cases are miss treated or miss diagnosed. The disease is most commonly diagnosed during the summer often being bitten during July to September period and then allowing symptoms to develop and the correct diagnosis. Only 30% of people that are infected with the disease develop noticeable symptoms however the disease can still be unidentified. Lyme disease can often be mistaken for chronic fatigue syndrome. The most common diagnosis methods for identifying Lyme disease are often not informative enough to diagnose the disease. There are many methods used to diagnose Lyme disease which is usually detectable by indirect immunoflorescence which is used to specify the antibodies. This technique used is called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, ELISA which are used to detect substances that have antigens and antibodies. ELISA tests are highly sensitive and do not use radioisotopes. Even if this technique is highly sensitive is can be very inaccurate. Also indirect fluorescent antibody IFA testing is used to help confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease. However the first 4 weeks after the tick bites can produce false negative results, therefore serologic testing is suggested which can give a more accurate diagnosis known as Western Immunobolt Test which is commonly known as the confirmation test. This test is a sensitive method for detecting antibodies in the patients' blood. Reoccurring Lyme disease has been observed and further diagnosis methods have been carried out e.g. skin biopsy. A new diagnosis method called Bowen Q-RiBb Quantitative Rapid Identification of Borrelia Burgdorferi that has been discovered and in recent years has had a major breakthrough. The method uses florescent antibody technique on the whole blood. This method of diagnosis is quantitative which can find out what stage the disease is (Website 2011). Looking at the diagnosis data it is visible that one diagnosis from one test should not be taken as an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment for Lyme disease can be taken in different forms from oral medication to injections. If the disease is caught in the early stages then it can be treated by oral medication. This involves taking a series of prescribed tablets to treat the disease doxycycline an effective treatment that can treat the disease but should not be given to under the age of 9 or to pregnant women. Amoxicillin is the treatment given to younger patients suffering from Lyme disease. Penicillin can also be taken aswell as Erythromycin for people who are allergic to penicillin. Oral medication should be taken for approximately 14 to 21 days. Taking antibiotics can speed up the healing of the rash. Even after a course of medication some people can still experience problems with muscle ache and fatigue; researchers are still continuing to find out how to best treat these symptoms. The other way to take the medication is injections which are only prescribed to serious cases of the disease. The injections available are benzylpenicillin which is used for some types of bacterial infections (Website 2011). Cefotaxime is an antibiotic related to penicillin also used to treat bacterial infections. A new recent natural treatment has been discovered known as Samento which can also be known as TOA-free Cat's Claw. This medication comes from the rare cat claw plant which contains pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids POA's which have a powerful immune systems. The mixture of POA's and acid glycosides which appears to be very effective in treating Lyme disease by killing off the Borrelia Burgdorferi and increasing the patient's immune system. A vaccine LYMErix was developed in 1998 and aimed at people who were at risk of Lyme disease. However in 2002 LYMErix was discontinued as the vaccine was on low demand. New vaccines are being studied.

The prevention of Lyme disease is all dependant on the individual taking precautions to protect themselves from contracting the disease. Suggested precautions are wearing long sleeved jumpers, full length trousers and trousers tucked into socks. Also wearing closed toe shoes can reduce the risk of getting bitten. Using insect repellent and using a tick repellent on pets to prevent infection. Also being cautious when outside such as sticking to paths and avoiding high grassed areas. Carrying out all of these protection methods should in some way prevent or even stop the person being bitten and becoming infected (Health Protection Agency - The Royal Parks)

Lyme disease is a newly emerging disease with very little unknown information about the disease. People who tend to live or work outside are a lot more prone to contracting the tick borne disease. Diagnosis methods for the disease have been continuing to develop new ways of analysing Lyme disease. However treatments of the disease are in the period of tried and tested, with new vaccines and medication being introduced. Lyme disease will continue to develop and will be continually controlled and observed for further researchers to carry out research.