E.J.Wilkins

18 Jul 2009 2,004 views
 
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photoblog image Ticks and Lyme Disease

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.
.

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.
.

comments (12)

  • Alan
  • United Kingdom
  • 19 Jul 2009, 07:25
Oh dear, Ellie; I'm sor sorry to hear that. I'm in a keen walker and thought nothing of wearing shorts at one tome but in recent years, I've come much more aware of this and now cover up as much as I can. Thank you for the wealth of information. I do hope that you get well soon and that the medication does what is expected.
EJWilkins: As Bill said (further down) we've always been a bit blasé about it, although very careful, we've never really thought it was a serious risk. To get a tick in the garden seems so, well, wrong and for one to carry Lyme makes it all even more unreal. I know you're "local" too, so please be careful, it does make you very, very poorly.
  • Chris
  • England
  • 19 Jul 2009, 08:04
Thank you kindly for this timely reminder of this horrible parasite Ellie. Hopefully you will soon be as good as new
EJWilkins: I hope so too Chris, thanks smile
  • Philine
  • Germany
  • 19 Jul 2009, 08:22
Oh, Ellie, my best wishes for you! Yes, your information is very important, also in our country where special areas are mentioned as "Zeckengebiete"! I agree with Alan: We have to aware of this and to cover up as much as we can while walking through woods... (I'll mind that when I'll be walking in Cornwall)
EJWilkins: Don't forget to use an insect repellent too Philine, these things can creep through clothing! Enjoy your time in Cornwall smile
Dear Ellie, I am so so sorry that you have this. I do hope the medication clears it up, and it stays gone for good. (Some malaria can recur.) Thanks for the graphic photo, and the detailed text. It never occurred to me that you could get ticks in England (and Scotland, Wales and Ireland?).
In Africa we used to dab the ticks with alcohol before pulling them off as you describe.
EJWilkins: They say not to use anything on the ticks before removing them because it makes them disgorge the contents of their stomach, which can make things worse. At the moment I'm still feeling pretty awful from the initial infection, I'm seriously hoping the antibiotics clear it up and also search out all the parasites rather than leaving a few to reinfect, which I believe is possible.
Ticks are everywhere where there are mammals, so it's a risk everywhere - I'd presume in Spain too because there's an "European Concerted Action on Lyme Borreliosis" >> http://meduni09.edis.at/eucalb/cms/index.php
  • Ginnie
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 19 Jul 2009, 13:25
Ellie, Ellie, Ellie! I have so often wondered where you were and what you were doing...but it never occurred to me that it was THIS. I am so sorry. My closest parallel is poison ivy, which I can get almost by looking at it. My system is dreadfully allergic and reacts terribly. They almost had to hospitalize me the last time. I DO hope your situation will clear up quickly with the antibiotics. Please keep us informed of your progress. This is important to all of us who care for you. Please take care. Doe vorzichtig!
EJWilkins: "This" hasn't been the only reason, I've been very busy doing things that had been put off and the best way to get anything done was not to turn on the computer. Lyme has just made things worse, it's horrible and very debilitating, and things are taking so much longer - if I can stay awake long enough to do anything!
  • Astrid
  • Netherlands
  • 19 Jul 2009, 13:26
Dear DEAR Ellie, I am shocked by the story that you have gone through this all.
It is good that you went to the doctor soon and got the proper treatment.
My wish for you is that you are cured soon, I know of some people they recovered 100% after medication.
Please take care, all my best wishes for a good recovery and thanks for this post, we never can be warned enough....
Thank you for visiting my blog.
Hartelijke groeten.
EJWilkins: Astrid, do you know what medication the people you know were prescribed? It would be interesting to learn if it's the same.
Thank you for you good wishes smile
  • Frida
  • Sweden
  • 19 Jul 2009, 14:12
Hi Ellie, these are awful animals. Our family have had 15 tick all toghether this summer. One can't even go into the grass or woods without beeing covered in clothes. We have been vaccinated for Tick-borne encephalitis TBE but it doesn't help with the Lyme disease. I have had it 3 times and I'm still under doctors control with bloodtests after an extencive cure of antibiotics. Well to make it short I hate those animals but they exist everywhere in our surrundings.
EJWilkins: 15 ticks is a lot Frida, but it only takes the one to do damage. I didn't know about a vaccine for TBE, maybe I should see if there is one available here in UK. Sorry to hear you've contracted Lyme three times, once is enough for me so I know how dreadful you've been feeling. I hope the antibiotics work for you too smile
  • Louis
  • South Africa
  • 19 Jul 2009, 21:30
Now that was interesting reading for an african. I always thought of ticks and their illnesses as something from over here. I have had tick fever some years ago, didn't treat it to build up resistance with future bites. But this is new and according to wiki may be coming over here at some stage in the future.
I see everyone refers to lots of clothing. That doesn't help. When ticks are really small (we refer to them as pepper ticks at that stage) they sit on grass stems and when you walk past they flick onto the person - clothes or not. Eventually they find space to crawl through. The tick that caused my fever back then got stuck in a place you don't mention in public.
We have stuff over here that you can spray or smear on and the ticks don't get stuck in. You can even use lamp oil - you stink but don't get bitten.
Being covered up may help to an extent, but not really as you have found out. If we walked in a tick area you go inspect yourself and especially the pepper size ticks you rub with lamp oil or diesoline. The bigger ones are easier to take of, as they are most of the time still running around. After inspection you will need a good shower, especially if you had to use the oily stuff.
Once infected is something else, especially Lyme's which is still unknown over here.
I am sorry for you getting infected and having to go through all of this. Like the americans will say - missed ya. I hope you get better soon and become your perky self again.
EJWilkins: Here they advise not to put anything on the tick before trying to pull it out because it can make it disgorge the contents of its' stomach - a yukky thought. There's nothing for sale, apart from insect repellents, and no real advise either apart from being careful. Hopefully the antibiotics will do their job and there'll be no long term side effects. I plan to upload a few pictures to make it at least look as if my blog is active, although the next few weeks are a bit "busy" with visitors and visiting so I may not have a huge amount of spare time.
I confess to having taken a cavalier approach to bites but after this I will be more careful. I hope you have a good recovery.
EJWilkins: I've always been the same Bill, didn't actually expect to be told I'd got Lyme although I knew something was horribly wrong. I'm hoping the antibiotics do the trick.
At first I thought of Lyme Regis in Devon. I had a couple of ticks embed themselves in me during a trip to Ireland many years agao.
EJWilkins: I thought of that Lyme too, maybe it's how the one in USA got its name?
Thanks for this post Ellie. It is very informative. I have heard of Lyme disease but didn't really know what it was. I thought it was some sort of tropical disease. I must admit that I am carefull abroad with insect repellant as I react badly to bites but I never seam to get bitten in England so never bother. I will now though thanks to you.
I do hope that you have a speedy recovery.
Take care
EJWilkins: I think it was a case of "it'll never happen to me", it seems that the number of infections is rising goodness knows why.
  • Laurie
  • United States
  • 22 Jul 2009, 20:15
Deer ticks and Lyme disease are a big problem even here in the NY area suburbs in the tri-state area. I had one attached to my scalp just a couple of months ago after an devening walk on a boarded walkway in a park. Even after giving myself a thorough tick check as well when I got home. I removed the tick appropriately and had it identified at the health department. It was in fact a deer tick and while it was embedded, it had not engorged yet and had not had not likely been attached long enough to transmit any disease. I kept a watchful eye out and remained symptom free for the last couple of months so I think I am in the clear. One concern I did have is that if I did show flu-like symptoms it may have been either Swine flu or Lyme...fortunately so far I've had neither.

I hope you are successful with your treatment. I know quite a few people who have struggled with Lyme some caught it early on and had few problems while others did not catch it until they had been sick a long time.
EJWilkins: Glad to hear you were lucky Laurie, it's not a very nice thing to have.

I've been surprised (odd choice of word I know) by how ill it's made me feel, how long it is taking to get rid of the infection and also the weirdness of the "brain fog".

Thank you for your best wishes.

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