The Scary Reality of Lyme Disease
It's summer, which means the weather is heating up and the skin is being exposed! Enjoy the sun, but remember, hiking in the woods may not expose you to as many UV rays but there are other (tiny) dangers that come with warm weather.
  My first experience with a tick occurred when I was about ten years old. It was tiny and only on my leg, but to say I was petrified would be an understatement (am not a bug person). As scared as I was of this tiny bug at the time, I had no idea the real danger it could carry. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is transmitted to humans through ticks, specifically blacklegged ticks. The ticks typically need to be attached to a host for about 36 to transmit the bacteria. How could you not notice a tick on you for almost two days you may ask? Well, the majority of ticks that transmit Lyme disease are about the size of a poppy seed. Therefore, it can be extremely difficult to know if you have one on you if you aren’t looking. Exposure is most likely in wooded areas, however they can also be found in brushy or grassy areas.

Lyme disease affects nearly 300,000 people per year. However, obtaining a diagnosis of Lyme disease can be a lengthy and difficult process. The early symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches joint pain, nausea, and especially fatigue. Some patients experience a rash resembling a bullseye around the tick bite area. Symptoms over time can become more severe and include memory issues or even seizures.  While the bullseye rash is a very tell-tale sign of Lyme disease, the other symptoms can be linked to any number of conditions. Also, Lyme disease can affect everyone differently also making it very difficult to diagnose. Even if someone knows they have been bitten, symptoms can take weeks to even years to develop. 
Lyme disease can be diagnosed from looking at symptoms or with testing. However, the tests are extremely insensitive and lead to about 20-30% of patients experiencing a false negative. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, treatment typically includes antibiotics. Treatment intensity and duration will vary from person to person. My aunt explained that she took two antibiotics for about a year as treatment for the disease. A doctor may also choose to treat lingering symptoms with other medications or therapies as ongoing symptoms can occur even after the antibiotic treatment is complete. Symptoms can also go into remission, and can reappear later. The earlier you treat Lyme disease the better. If you are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease, especially a bullseye rash, be sure to speak to your doctor. As with any condition, if you feel you haven’t been properly diagnosed or your symptoms are persisting, it is always okay to seek a second or third doctor’s opinion.

Singer Avril Lavigne spoke about her battle with Lyme disease. Her symptoms included extreme fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, Yolanda Foster has also opened up on her experience and shared that she was unable to read or write as a result of the disease. My aunt struggled with finding a diagnosis. Her symptoms developed over years, and became especially severe following a surgery. She explained that she would become extremely fatigued, and found that she could not muster up energy to get out of bed, even after obtaining a full night’s sleep. She also experienced debilitating joint pain, especially in her feet. (Notice how all three women mentioned experienced different symptoms. This disease is tricky!) Like Avril, my aunt spoke to several doctors over several months who wrote off the symptoms to other things. However, both women persisted knowing what they were experiencing with their body was not normal until they finally obtained the proper diagnosis.
The best way you can combat Lyme disease is to take proper precautions to prevent tick exposure. Avoid tick prone areas if possible by keeping to the middle of trails and staying out of overgrown brush or grass. Use insect repellent with has at least 20% concentration of DEET, especially on legs, pants, socks, feet, and shoes. If you are going to be in tick prone areas, be sure to check your whole body for ticks, even the groin and scalp. This may require asking a loved one help you look at those hard to reach areas. Remove ticks with tweezers, without crushing the body. DO NOT use methods such as burning the tick or painting it with nail polish as they could be harmful and ineffective. Finally, bathe/shower and change your clothes as soon as possible after returning from the outdoors. Ticks can crawl on clothes or the body before attaching to a host, and this may help to prevent attachment.

You know your body best. Always advocate for yourself and speak to your health care provider (or multiple health care providers) if you feel something is abnormal.

Amanda grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, IL but is now enjoying living in Louisville, KY. She received her bachelors degree at Northern Illinois University where she acted as a resident advisor and mentor to fellow students. This was where she found her passion for wellness and helping others. She went on to study community health and receive her Masters of Education at the University of Louisville. During her studies, she focused her graduate research on programming for mental health and youth wellness. She also acts as an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. She has always enjoyed using her voice and knowledge to educate and advocate about important health topics. Amanda spends much of her time employed as a nanny for three wonderful children.

When she is not busy promoting health education or chasing around the kids, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing with her Pomeranian, Sulley, or indulging in a great book. Amanda thrives on helping to educate others about important health issues and effective health related behaviors so they can live happier and healthier lives!