As we get older, we become more vulnerable to health issues, such as cardiovascular problems,…
Most people are aware that Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a severe infection caused by bacteria (spirochetes) that are transmitted to humans following a bite from blood-feeding insects and arachnids, particularly ticks. It is not the actual tick that causes this vector-borne disease; Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia bacteria, which is spread by ticks.
Worried you’ve been bitten by a tick?
Ticks transmit infection only after they have attached to their host. They typically feed for more than 24 hours. The risk of contracting an infectious agent is reduced the sooner the tick is properly removed.
It is best to remove a tick with a tick removal kit, to ensure that you have removed all of the tick. When ticks bite, they burrow their heads and barbed, skin-piercing, blood-sucking mouthpart into the skin and so, if their body is broken off and the head and mouthpart remains in the skin, the risk of transmission of Lyme is still present. You may wish to learn how to properly remove a tick from Lyme Disease Action or Lyme Disease UK.
Not all ticks carry the Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease. You can have any tick tested to see if it carries the causative agent for Lyme disease in humans. Keep a suitable container in your home so that you can store and freeze the tick and then talk to our Reception to find out how to send it for PCR testing. It is a good idea to photograph the site of the tick bite to accurately monitor if there are any changes in the skin in the surrounding area.
The symptoms of Lyme disease will not occur immediately and may take about a week to occur. Early symptoms can mimic the summer flu or another viral illness and may include a fever, achiness, fatigue, and/or headache or neck ache. The majority, but not all, people who have contracted Lyme from a tick bite will develop a rash around where it was feeding, which is a red, expanding rash that is usually bigger than 3cm in size and may last for a few days or weeks. It is not typically painful or itchy.
Lyme disease is diagnosed on symptoms and evaluation, including evaluation of exposure and examination of the rash. Diagnosis can be difficult, particularly if a Lyme disease rash does not occur. The other symptoms are quite common and can be mistaken for other conditions. It is hypothesised that there are about 200 other diseases that Lyme symptoms may mimic, such as ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, MCS, and mould and mycotoxin exposure. There are various pathology tests available and the most frequently used tests measure antibodies in the blood. For some people, this clearly shows that they need to be treated for Lyme disease. However, due to the nature and life cycle of the bacteria that causes Lyme, at this time, inaccurate results are possible.
If you are worried you have a Lyme disease rash, it is best to see a physician with experience identifying Lyme disease. Our Infectious Diseases Specialist Daud Mohamed has been successfully treating Lyme disease and chronic Lyme disease patients for many years. The primary treatment for Lyme disease is a course of appropriate antibiotics. The types and duration of the treatment will vary between individuals and the stage of the disease. Most people diagnosed and treated early with the appropriate antibiotics get better. However, it is estimated that 10-20% of people develop chronic ongoing symptoms. Chronic Lyme disease symptoms include severe pain, cardiac problems, facial palsy and swollen joints and arthritis.
In addition to antibiotics, the Lyme spirochete appears to be very heat-sensitive so near-infrared light hyperthermia treatment may be beneficial.
Visit our Lyme disease page for more information on how we can help you recover.
More about ticks
Ticks thrive between early spring and late autumn, although can be found throughout the year in the UK.
Ticks can be found across large parts of the UK. They are usually found in and around woodlands, heathland, moorland and in some grassland. It is believed they are increasing in number in the UK because of increasing numbers of deer. There are about 20 species of ticks in the UK, many feeding on specific wild animals. However, the deer tick, Ixodes ricinus, is known to feed on nearly all animals, including people.
Ticks spend most of their 3-year life in leaf litter. However, when conditions are right, they climb up out of the vegetation and try to find an animal to feed on. While they do no jump or fly and are blind, they wait on twigs, grasses and flowers, sensing the carbon dioxide we breathe out, the vibrations we make as we walk, and our body heat, waving their front legs to quickly climb on to passers by.
Ticks can become infected with the harmful-to-humans Lyme bacteria at various stages of their lives. For example, adult ticks can acquire Borrelia from an infected host and can pass their infection to the larvae.
Generally, ticks are very small and not easy to see. It is good practice to thoroughly brush off your clothes after being in areas where ticks may be found and thoroughly inspecting your skin after your clothes have been removed. If you find any ticks, remove them properly and carefully as soon as possible.