Reportings of Lyme disease quite high in Ireland
Lyme disease is an infection with a bacteria called Borrelia.
The bacteria is passed to humans from infected ticks. The condition was named after a town in the US called Old Lyme, where, in 1975, there was an outbreak of arthritis in young children which was found to be due to this infection. This was the first time that this bacterium was proved to be the cause of a medical condition.
Lyme disease has been reported in North America, Europe, Australia, China and Japan. Infected ticks are most likely to be encountered in heath land and lightly forested areas of North America and Northern Europe. Seroprevalence studies report the Republic of Ireland as having one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in Europe.
The symptoms of Lyme Disease can be divided into three stages:
Stage One - within weeks of sustaining a bite by an infected tick, a red circle which resembles a Bull's eye target may appear. A flu like illness may also occur, in the early stage of the disease.
Stage Two - otherwise known as disseminated disease, symptoms may include migratory joint pain, head and neck pain, sore throat, swollen glands and severe fatigue.
Stage Three - symptoms for late stage Lyme disease may include numbness, tremors and tingling. Nerve pain, poor temperature control, brain fog and disturbed sleep patterns are common. Complications include depression, panic attacks, muscle weakness, tissue damage, meningitis and chronic arthritis.
In most cases the diagnosis is made at stage one of the disease when a patient presents with a typical rash, sometimes also with flu-like symptoms following a tick bite. Blood tests are helpful in diagnosing the disease if it is suspected from symptoms at stages two or three.
A course of antibiotics will usually clear the infection resulting in a complete cure without further problems in most cases.
The type of antibiotics as well as the duration of treatment will depend on individual circumstances.
Prevention is always better than cure. Ticks prefer areas of dense vegetation, fallen leaves and tall grasses. To avoid these areas, stick to footpaths when out walking and tuck trousers into socks. Clothes with shiny surfaces help prevent ticks from clinging on.
A repellent containing DEET can be used to help repel ticks. After walking it is important that you check yourself and your family members, especially children, remembering to check tucked away places such as behind the ears, in the hair and in the groin.