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Borreliosis (Lyme Disease)

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged deer tick. It is the most common tickborne infectious disease in the United States.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat....Read more about Lyme Disease
CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

No evidence for the diagnostic value of Borrelia serology in patients with sudden hearing loss

In this evidence-based case report, we address the following clinical question: What is the predictive value of serological testing for Borrelia for diagnosing neuroborreliosis in patients with sudden sensorineural hearing loss? We searched for relevant articles in PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science. We retrieved 49 unique publications and screened the title and abstract of these articles for relevance. We included 2 of 12 studies initially considered relevant to answer our question. These 2 studies reported a seroprevalence of antibodies against Borrelia of 16% in patients with sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SHL) as compared with 13.5% in the general population, but in neither patients with definite neuroborreliosis were they found. To date, there is no evidence regarding the added value of routine diagnostic serologic testing for Borrelia in diagnosing neuroborreliosis in patients with sudden SHL. Neuroborreliosis seems to be a rare cause of sudden SHL, and routine screening of patients for borrelia antibodies in serum should therefore not be recommended.

Efficacy of antibiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of Lyme disease: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis

This review concluded that there was available evidence to support the use of antibiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of Lyme disease in endemic areas following an Ixodes tick bite. The authors' conclusions reflected the evidence presented but, given the lack of intention-to-treat analysis and low event rates, a degree of caution might be required to interpret the authors' conclusions.

Treatment Duration for Lyme Disease [Internet]

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Summaries for consumers

Tick bites: Lyme disease

Some ticks carry Lyme disease, which can be transferred to humans when they bite. This bacterial infection can be prevented if the tick is removed in time. Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics. If the infection is left untreated, complications can arise. But that is rare. Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It is more common than tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), another disease that can be transmitted by ticks. If you are infected with Lyme disease, the skin near the bite becomes inflamed. The bacteria that cause the infection – called Borrelia bacteria – might later go on to attack joints or various organs, but Lyme disease usually doesn't cause any serious symptoms. It is normal for the skin around a tick bite to turn red and itch. This inflammatory reaction has nothing to do with Lyme disease and usually goes away within a few days after the tick is removed. But if the skin near the bite is red a few days or weeks after you were bitten, it could be a sign of Lyme disease. A Lyme disease rash typically spreads outwards with a ring-like appearance until it reaches a diameter of more than five centimeters. This rash is called erythema migrans (Latin for "migrating redness"), or EM rash. Because of its typical appearance, it is also sometimes called a "bull's eye" rash. Typical signs of Lyme disease Illustration: Typical signs of Lyme disease – as described in the information It is important to seek medical attention if you develop a rash like this. You should also see a doctor if you develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, drowsiness or aching muscles within six weeks of being bitten. These symptoms could also be signs of Lyme disease, even if you do not have an EM rash. If you do have a typical rash, Lyme disease can be diagnosed just by looking at it. Make sure you remember to tell your doctor that you were bitten by a tick. If it is still not possible to tell whether you have Lyme disease after having a physical examination, your blood might be tested.

Tick bites: Overview

Although ticks can carry and spread disease, tick bites do not generally cause health problems. You're much less likely to develop tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) than Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis). And there are several things you can do to prevent tick bites.

Tick bites: Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

The risk of getting tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is much lower than the risk of getting Lyme disease. Only a small number of ticks are infected with the virus. And even if a tick is infected, the virus will not necessarily spread to the people the tick feeds on. A TBE infection can cause symptoms, but it doesn't have to. It often goes unnoticed in children, or the symptoms are only mild and temporary. The symptoms of a mild TBE infection are similar to flu symptoms and include fever, headaches, vomiting and dizziness. TBE is diagnosed by testing blood or cerebrospinal fluid for the TBE virus. Because the disease is caused by a virus, antibiotics won't help. Antiviral drugs are not available for TBE, so there is no anti-TBE therapy. Instead, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms. Although TBE usually clears up without any lasting health problems, symptoms may last for months. Serious complications are much more common in adults than they are in children. In most children, the course of the disease is mild and long-lasting consequences are very rare.

Terms to know

Borrelia Burgdorferi Bacteria (Lyme Disease Bacteria)
A species of bacteria that is the causative agent of Lyme disease.
Redness of the skin.
Doctors who diagnose and treat diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and tendons, including arthritis and collagen diseases.
Parasites comprising two families: the softbacked ticks (argasidae) and hardbacked ticks (ixodidae). Ticks are larger than their relatives, the mites. They penetrate the skin of their host by means of highly specialized, hooked mouth parts and feed on its blood.

More about Borreliosis

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Other terms to know: See all 4
Borrelia Burgdorferi Bacteria (Lyme Disease Bacteria), Erythema, Rheumatologist

Related articles:
Ticks and How To Remove Them

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