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Definition

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and acquired through tick bites. These ticks can spread the disease to animals and humans through tick bites. These ticks are about the size of a sesame seed.

Males and females of all ages can affect Lyme disease. People who spend time outdoors in tick-infested environments are at an increased risk of this illness.

Lyme disease has been reported most often in the Northeastern United States, but has been reported in all 50 states as well as China, Europe, Japan, Australia and the parts of the former Soviet Union.

However, the great majority of Lyme Disease transmissions in dogs are due to the bite of a very tiny tick commonly called the Deer Tick, or Black-legged Tick.

Causes

A tick passes through three stages of development-larva, nymph, and adult-each of which is dependent on a live host for food. Like vampires, ticks thrive on blood, latching onto a host and feeding for four or five days until they are swollen to many times their normal size. During feeding, ticks that carry disease-producing bacteria can transmit the bacteria to a healthy host. Or they may pick up bacteria themselves if the host is infected.

Symptoms

Some studies suggest that up to 90% of patients with Lyme disease exhibit a rash a few days to a month after a tick bite, although others estimate that the incidence of the rash are lower than 50%. Some people with Lyme disease have many red spots. The rash may burn, hurt or itch, or you may not feel it. Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headaches, stiff neck, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain. The redness resolves, without treatment, in about a month. Weeks to months after the initial redness of the skin the bacterium and its effects spread throughout the body. Subsequently, disease in the joints, heart and nervous system can occur.

Memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and changes in mood or sleep habits also can be symptoms of late-stage Lyme disease.

Treatment

Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics, especially if treatment is begun early in the course of illness.  However, a small percentage of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that last months to years after treatment with antibiotics. 

If Lyme disease is not diagnosed and treated until later problems arise, it may take you a long time to get better or you may require additional treatment.

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