What is Lyme disease and should I be worried?
Everything you need to know in order to keep you and your family safe this summer
Each year it is estimated that there are around 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales. Because we have been experiencing beautiful long, hot sunny days this summer - many of us are spending more time in the great outdoors which has the potential to see more people at risk of developing Lyme disease. Read on to learn everything you need to know about Lyme disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks.
Ticks are around the size of a pinhead and are found in grassy, woodland areas. They feed on the blood of mammals (including humans) and birds. Infected ticks that are responsible for causing Lyme disease are found throughout the UK and in other areas of Europe and North America. Lyme disease is more than just an insect bite, it’s a bacterial infection that has the potential to cause serious health conditions such as meningitis or heart failure if left untreated.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
If you have been bitten by a tick and haven't removed it within a couple of days, you could be at risk of developing Lyme disease. A common early sign of infection is an expanding, circular rash that looks like a bull's eye but not everyone who is infected experiences a rash.
In the early stages of the infection, some people have flu-like symptoms such as:
- A high temperature
- Muscle and joint pain
- Extreme fatigue
If left untreated the bacteria multiply and spread all around the body affecting many areas such as your joints, heart and even the nervous system. Infection of brain tissue can result in memory and concentration problems and may also affect sight and hearing. Lyme disease is best treated in its early stages. If you are experiencing symptoms then we recommend testing as soon as possible. After a diagnosis of Lyme disease, your GP will prescribe a course of antibiotics to fight the infection.
How do I know if I have Lyme disease?
Medichecks makes it super simple to test for Lyme disease. Our Lyme disease (ELISA) test is the first step, to confirm the diagnosis of Lyme Disease.
Top tips avoiding tick bites
- After spending time in woodland/grassland areas, check yourself all over for any tick bites
- Whilst outdoors, cover your skin and tuck your trousers into your socks
- Use an insect repellent that contains DEET
- Wear light coloured clothes to make spotting a tick as easy as possible
- Wherever possible stick to paths rather than venturing through long grassy areas
Be aware that ticks often have a natural anaesthetic in their saliva, meaning many people do not notice when they have been bitten. If you do notice that you have been bitten by a tick, prompt, correct removal of the tick reduces the risk of transmission. If using tweezers, pull the tick upwards without twisting and grab it as close to the skin as possible to ensure you remove the head and mouth. Once the tick is removed, keep an eye on the area and watch out for any Lyme disease symptoms.
We are certainly not encouraging anyone to hide away from the glorious weather or to steer clear from any grassland areas as the majority of tick bites do not transmit the disease. But we believe it is important that everyone is informed and aware of the Lyme disease signs and symptoms in order to keep safe this summer.