What is Lyme disease?

The cases of Lyme disease are progressively increasing. We will tell you how Borrelia transmission occurs through tick bites and which antibiotics control its symptoms.

Lyme disease is just one of the infectious diseases transmitted by ticks. It is the first frequency disease transmitted by these pesky creatures in the Northern Hemisphere. A type of spirochetal bacteria called Borrelia is transmitted by the bite of Ixodes- type ticks, especially during the warm months of spring and summer, hence the name of Lyme borreliosis.

The manifestation of the disease in its first phase is erythema migrans or migratory, and it appears in 75% of those affected. It is a red spot acquiring the shape of a ring, and that appears in the tick bite area: thighs, armpits, groin. It can become huge. Headaches, joints and muscles, fever, and fatigue also occur pretty frequently.

In the following phases, the bacteria are dispersed throughout the body through the blood, skin, or lymphatics, producing new skin symptoms, neurological, cardiac, or joint involvement. Untreated infection can persist for months or even a few years. Neurological and cardiac symptoms can be severe, although mortality is generally low.

How to cure Lyme disease

Fortunately, most people with Lyme disease are cured with antibiotic treatment. However, some people have a ‘post-Lyme syndrome’ consisting of fatigue, general headaches, and headaches lasting longer than six months. This happens in a low percentage of patients. The exact reason for its appearance is unknown, although it is thought to be due to an immune imbalance or activation.

Other people are diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease without meeting the diagnostic criteria due to generalized pain, fatigue, headache, difficulty concentrating … This condition is not secondary to Lyme disease. Although the serology is positive, it does not improve with antibiotics. In these patients, an adequate differential diagnosis with other conditions must be carried out.

Causes of Lyme disease

Lyme disease is caused by spirochetal bacteria called Borrelia, hence also known as borreliosis Lyme. In the United States, Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. In Europe and Asia, in addition to B. burgdorferi, there are two other species, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii . 

Lyme disease is the disease transmitted by ticks most common in the United States and Europe. It is more common to occur in summer. People of any age and sex can be affected, although it is more common among men and in people between five and ten and between 35 and 55 years. People who spend a lot of time in wooded or field areas with ticks are at the most significant risk of suffering from the disease: hunters and hikers.

The first time a case of borreliosis was described in a chronic cutaneous form (chronic atrophic acrodermatitis) was in Europe in 1883. In the 1920s, the first cases of neuroborreliosis were published. The current name of the disease is due to the cases described in Lyme’s town in Connecticut in 1975. Despite the disease being known before, it was not until 1981 that the bacteria produced were discovered. However, it has been with us for a long time. The Iceman, Ötzi, suffered from borreliosis thousands of years ago.

Lyme disease prevalence and causes of increased cases

Wild rodents and deer carry the ticks that carry the disease. Dogs that walk through forest areas can also acquire these ticks and even become ill. The sick dog does not transmit the infection to humans, but the tick could pass to its owners. It is thought that the progressive increase in the number of cases since the 1980s is mainly due to climate change, which increases the population density of the ticks that transmit the disease, in addition to making their geographical distribution more extensive: the more ticks, the greater the probability of being bitten by one of them. 

There are probably many cases of Lyme disease that go undiagnosed. There were more than 250,000 cases reported In the United States between 2005 and 2014, although it is estimated that each year about 300,000 affected people are diagnosed. In Europe –with forested Central Europe being the most affected area– 360,000 cases have been reported in the last 20 years. There are also cases in Russia, China, Central Asia, Canada, and Mexico.

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