Ticks and Lyme Disease
(Apologies for the awful picture, which I had to embellish to get to the right size to upload.)Ticks
Ticks are parasitic insects that live on birds and mammals, including humans. Ticks will feed themselves on blood until they look rather like a thick bubble of pvc a few millimetres across, they then drop off and do whatever they do in the next stage of their life cycle. When the time is right they hope to find another host for another feed.
When ticks attach themselves they may look like a tiny speck of dust, but one that won't be brushed off. They should always be removed, which is easy to do with a sharp twist of a pair of tweezers - advice is NOT to use anything such as vaseline to try to kill them first.
Where we live ticks are quite common, and are something we've learned to deal with. We wear long trousers and socks, and tops with long sleeves if we are likely to be walking off-track and, if we'll be near heather or bracken, we spray our ankles, cuffs and necklines liberally with insect repellent. We've found that a few drops of tea tree oil mixed with water in a spray bottle works just fine, although it doesn't smell too good.
Why do we bother? Because of Lyme Disease - which in UK is apparently carried by Deer Ticks.Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is named after the town of Lyme in Connecticut where, in 1977, Dr Allen Steere identified the infection whilst investigating localised high numbers of cases of juvenile arthritis. It was first called "Lyme Arthritis".
Steere referred to work carried out by a Swedish doctor Arvid Afzelius who had, in 1909, described an expanding ring-like lesion which he called Erythema migrans (see picture
) that he thought resulted from being bitten by the Ixodes tick
..... It is now know that Lyme is the only disease with this visible symptom in the early stages
, although it only occurs in about 50% of patients .....
Later work by Willy Burgdorfer, in 1982, identified a spirochaete bacterium of the genus Borrelia as the cause of Lyme - Borrelia burgdorferi is named after him. It has a clever life cycle and is carried in the tick's gut, in the same way as the Anopheles mosquito carries the Malaria protozoa Plasmodium spp..
In the early stages of infection, sometimes without any other obvious sign such as the "bull's eye" of erythema migrans (which doesn't look like a bull's eye), Lyme Disease can affect the eyes, with symptoms similar to conjunctivitis which makes them sensitive to light. It can cause muscle weakness and joint pain, severe headaches, neck stiffness due to swollen glands, and "general debility" which causes tiredness and difficulty sleeping. Patients can also become disorientated and suffer from "brain fog".
If left untreated the disease can be devastating to humans because it can affect the working of so many parts of the body. It can lead to paralysis, memory loss and encephalitis as well as causing fluid to build up around the joints in the same way as chronic arthritis. It can affect the nervous system and brain, with symptoms ranging from those similar to ME to the facial paralysis of Bell's Palsy.
According to http://www.brown.edu/Courses/Bio_160/Projects2005/lyme_disease/history.htm
it seems that other mammals do not suffer the same ill effects.And so?
Our local ticks don't seem to worry too much about where they live, and are no respectors of fences, hedges and areas under cultivation. They're also clearly carried by animals other than deer - because we don't get deer in our garden and I recently found a couple of small ticks on my left calf after working in the garden - and yes, I had been wearing "sensible" clothes because of what I was doing.
I removed the ticks and didn't think anything more, but a few days later the area where one of them had been became very, very, sore and red, with a dark patch in the centre making it look as if there was something inside. I didn't feel too good either and my legs and head hurt quite a lot.
I sought advice and was given antibiotics for an "infection" (Flucloxacillin), was told it wasn't likely to be Lyme. Unfortunately the area around the bite got even more sore and uncomfortable, the appearance of the area bite the bite changed in character and I felt even more unwell. So I went back for a second opinion and my fears were confirmed. I was given a high dose course of Erythromycin.
I've been taking antibiotics like they're going out of fashion, am now on a long course of Doxycycline (also used for Malaria). I hope it gets rid of these horrible little spirochaetes that have affected the working of too many parts of me. I'm reassured that if appropriate medical treatment is given early then it will be successful.
... I may well add more information another time, in case anybody finds my blog while looking for information about Lyme, but I think this is enough for now.
There is loads of information online, here are a few places where you can read some more.
Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK (BADA) >> http://www.bada-uk.org/
Center for Disease Control. (CDC) Lyme Disease (USA Site) >> http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/LYME/index.htm
Lyme Disease Action UK >> http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/
Mayo Clinic information pages >> http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lyme-disease/DS00116
Patient UK information pages >> http://www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/40000442/
Wikipedia article >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyme_disease
Dr Allen Steere (Wikipedia) >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_Steere
We have yet another busy "summer", even if it doesn't stop raining. I plan to get pictures uploaded, but may not have too much time to visit blogs, but I will do when I can..