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  • Writer's pictureJessica Crawford

What Causes Lyme Disease?

The most common cause of Lyme disease in the US is from bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii, and the leading cause in Europe and Asia are Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii. It is now known that there are hundreds of species of Lyme bacteria.

Lyme disease is well known for being passed on from a deer tick, but this doesn't mean that the tick can't reach you from other animals such as the white-footed mouse, which can hold hundreds of ticks in just one ear, or even your dog. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease are typically the size of a poppy seed and can be extremely hard to see, and most people don't feel the bite due to the tick's saliva containing an anesthetic-like substance that numbs your skin. A majority of patients with Lyme disease do not remember being bit.

A tick bite usually brings more than just Lyme disease, it also brings coinfections such as Babesia, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Powassan virus - all causing more symptoms to the patient.

Lyme is now confirmed in all 50 states according to a report from Quest Diagnostics. According to Quest Diagnostics, "Our data show that positive results for Lyme are both increasing in number and occurring in geographic areas not historically associated with the disease," researchers wrote in a press release. "We hypothesize that these significant rates of increase may reinforce other research suggesting changing climate conditions that allow ticks to live longer and in more regions may factor into disease risk."

Early Sign and Symptoms

Early signs of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, neck stiffness and swollen lymph nodes. Only about 30% of people get the well-known bullseye rash, but that is still used as a strong indicator for diagnosing Lyme disease.

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause severe joint pain, muscle pain and weakness, chronic fatigue, Bell's palsy, you might develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis), memory loss, heart problems and even vision problems.

Lyme disease is known as the "great imitator" because it can mimic so many other diseases. If you have been bitten by a tick or suspect you have Lyme disease, contact your doctor immediately. Treatment for Lyme disease can be more effective if caught early. Please keep in mind that the tests are very inaccurate and can result in false negatives.

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