What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection that is spread by ticks. You can get Lyme disease if you are bitten by an infected tick. But most people who have had a tick bite don't get Lyme disease. It's still important to see your doctor if you have a tick attached to you that you can't remove.
What causes Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. Infected ticks spread the bacteria by biting people or animals.
Two types of ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria in Canada. They are:
- Deer ticks. They spread the disease in the eastern and south-central areas of Canada.
- Western black-legged ticks. They spread the disease along the Pacific coast, mostly in southern British Columbia.
Remove ticks as soon as you notice them. Infected ticks usually don't spread Lyme disease until they have been attached for at least 36 hours.
What are the symptoms?
One sign of Lyme disease is a round, red rash that spreads at the site of a tick bite. This rash can get very large.
Flu-like symptoms are also common. People in the early stages of Lyme disease may feel very tired and have headaches, sore muscles and joints, and a fever.
These symptoms can start at any time, from 3 days to up to a month after you have been bitten. Some people don't have any symptoms when they are in the early stages of Lyme disease. And they may not even remember getting a tick bite.
If Lyme disease goes untreated, you can have more serious symptoms over time. These include:
- Swelling and joint pain (like arthritis).
- Tingling and numbness in your hands, feet, and back.
- A lack of energy that does not get better.
- Trouble focusing your thoughts.
- Poor memory.
- Weakness or paralysis in your face muscles.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms. Your doctor will also ask about your activities to try to find out if you have been around infected ticks. You may have a blood test to see if you have certain antibodies in your blood that could mean you have the disease.
How is it treated?
The main treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. These medicines usually cure Lyme disease within 3 weeks of starting treatment.
It's important to get treatment for Lyme disease as soon as you can. If it goes untreated, Lyme disease can lead to problems with your skin, joints, nervous system, and heart. These can occur weeks, months, or even years after your tick bite. The problems often get better with antibiotics, but in rare cases they can last the rest of your life.
Can you prevent Lyme disease?
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to protect yourself from ticks. Cover up as much skin as you can when you're going to be in wooded or grassy areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks. And keep in mind that it's easier to see ticks on light-coloured clothes.
Use a bug repellent that has the chemical DEET to keep away ticks. Use products that contain 0.5% permethrin on your clothing and outdoor gear, such as your tent. You can also buy clothing already treated with permethrin. Permethrin is not available as an insect repellent in Canada, but travel health clinics may be able to advise you on how to buy permethrin or permethrin-treated gear.
Check your pets for ticks after they've been outside. You can't get Lyme disease from your pet. But your pet can bring infected ticks inside. These ticks can fall off your pet and attach to you. Check your clothing and outdoor gear after you have been outside. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for 1 hour to kill any ticks that might remain.
All of this information is courtesy of the Alberta Health Website. Please visit this website for more information on Ticks and Lyme Disease: