Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a type of infection that is caused by tick bites, but not all tick bites cause Lyme disease.

Deer ticks and black-legged ticks are the only types of ticks that can infect a person with Lyme disease. These ticks may become infected with a certain type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, and that bacterium causes the infection that leads to Lyme disease.

I’ve got a tick bite. Does that mean I have Lyme disease?

Not necessarily. If you remove the tick with fine-tipped tweezers as soon as you realize you’ve been bitten, you’ll reduce your risk of developing a Lyme disease infection. Ticks must attach themselves to a person for 1 to 2 days before the person becomes infected. Tick bites and insect bites are common reasons people seek care at a walk-in clinic such as River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department.

Signs of Lyme Disease

Typically, the first sign of Lyme disease is a rash called an erythema migrans rash. The rash appears at the site of the tick bite roughly 3 to 30 days after the bite occurred, with most rashes appearing roughly one week after the bite. Sometimes the rash will look like a bull’s-eye on a target.

This rash occurs in 70% to 80% of people infected with Lyme disease. If a person infected does not get a rash, other signs of Lyme disease may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to more serious concerns, including:

  • Arthritis with swelling, especially in the knees or other large joints
  • Facial palsy (drooping or loss of muscle tone)
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Nerve pain
  • Rashes on other parts of the body
  • Severe headache
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Stiff neck

Treatment for Lyme Disease

If you respond quickly to the signs of Lyme disease, you can receive early treatment, such as a few weeks of antibiotics, and potentially prevent long-term complications. Most antibiotic treatments for Lyme disease are oral medications, and they last for two to three weeks. If you receive antibiotics for Lyme disease, it’s important to finish all the antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. This kills the infection that causes Lyme disease.

Treatment for later stages of Lyme disease will also include antibiotics, but they may be given intravenously (through an IV) and for longer periods of time.

By knowing the signs of Lyme disease, you can ensure that you and your loved ones receive immediate care and prevent long-term illness.

When it’s not an emergency, River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department offers quick, efficient care for everyday medical concerns, including bug and tick bites. No appointment is necessary; just visit the clinic located at the hospital’s main entrance.

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