It wasn’t that long ago that if you mentioned “Lyme disease” to someone, they probably wouldn’t know what you were talking about. That someone might have even been your doctor, or it may have been you. Without knowing what it entails or how it’s caused, you could be carrying the worsening symptoms and not know why your health is failing in so many ways.
Things have improved in recent years but not for any good reason. The public is more aware of Lyme disease now than they ever have before, but only because the spread of this tick borne disease has reached epidemic levels. This is especially so on the east coast, where Lyme has become downright prolific.
It’s not clear why – experts say climate change, forest regrowth and the spread of deer might all be factors. What is clear is that many more people than before need to watch out for the ticks that carry the infection, CDC says.
“Over time, the number of counties identified as having high incidence of Lyme disease in the northeastern states increased more than 320 percent: from 43 (1993-1997) to 90 (1998-2002) to 130 (2003-2007) to 182 (2008-2012),” Kiersten Kugeler of the CDC’s center in Forth Collins, Colorado, and colleagues write in their report.
The northern coast of New Jersey is no longer a hotbed of new Lyme infections, but now east-central Pennsylvania is, they said.
While it’s impossible to know what is causing it to spread, it’s certainly having a catastrophic effect on public health. For now it’s hard to say how many people are afflicted with this disease every year, but we do know how much it’s costing us.
A recent study goes beyond human suffering inflicted by Lyme disease to estimate the monetary cost of this “hidden epidemic,” as some call it. Researchers sifted through the health-insurance claims of 47 million people and discovered a staggering financial burden incurred by tens of thousands treated for Lyme disease — possibly more than $1 billion a year in the US alone.
Officially, the CDC reports that 35,000 people come down with Lyme disease every year, which by itself wouldn’t be that bad. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 300 million plus people who live in the US. However, that number was only 20,000 in 2005, and just over 10,000 in 1995. But altogether, those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Two years ago the CDC tried to get a better estimate by studying medical insurance claims, talking to laboratories that test for the disease, and surveying the population. They found that there may be as many as 300,000 people coming down with Lyme disease every year.
The likely culprit for this huge discrepancy in numbers, is the elusive symptoms of a Lyme infection. The average person often dismisses these symptoms as something mundane, while doctors tend to confuse them for other diseases.
While plenty has been written on how to prevent and remove ticks, perhaps now is a good time to go over the symptoms of Lyme disease, in case those measures fail to protect you.
First of all, Lyme disease develops over many days and weeks, and perhaps years if left untreated. One of the first signs you’ll get, is a rash that develops around the bite mark a few days after the tick is removed. It’ll start small, but eventually grows to the size of a small plate, and it often takes on a bulls-eye appearance as it expands. This occurs in about 80% of cases.
But as time goes on, you may experience severe headaches, swollen and painful joints, heart palpitations and dizziness. You may also see rashes pop up in places that are unrelated to the original bite, and Bell’s palsy, which is defined as the loss of muscle tone on the face. You might even lose the ability to move certain parts of your face. Overall, many of the symptoms give the patient the impression that they’re dealing with the flu. They have a fever, feel lethargic, and suffer from memory loss. This is also accompanied by uncontrollable muscle spasms and the sensation of pins and needles in your limbs.
If you have any combination of these symptoms (especially the bulls-eye rash), you should get yourself checked out and treated professionally. The longer you wait, the more damage it will do to your body, which means you’ll have more long-term symptoms. Even some people who are treated in a timely manner, find that they have lingering symptoms for years after they’re cured. It’s a devastated disease that can ruin your life if ignored or misdiagnosed (which it often is), so don’t hesitate to get tested if any of these signs apply to you.
Also take a look at this article from the Health Wyze Report, which provides some alternative treatments for Lyme disease.