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Lyme disease is an illness caused by bacteria and spread by ticks. It can be challenging to diagnose and is not contagious, but can be treated with two to four weeks of antibiotics.


Lyme disease is named for the town in Connecticut where its root cause was discovered: spirochetal bacteria. Spirochetal is actually a category of bacteria characterized by spiral-shaped cells, common in tick hosts such as deer and mice. When ticks feed on these animals, they spread Lyme disease to their future hosts. If an infected tick latches onto a human, and is undetected for 36 hours or more, it can transmit the dreaded illness. Only a small percentage of tick bites actually lead to Lyme disease.


Initial symptoms of Lyme disease might manifest as a circular or bulls-eye-shaped rash at the location of the tick bite, but not always. Once the disease spreads, other symptoms may arise, including dizziness, fever, arthritis in the joints, or heart palpitations. Some people develop chronic Lyme disease, which can result in long-term, debilitating symptoms. The wide variety of symptoms associated with Lyme disease make it challenging for doctors to effectively diagnose it. Blood tests designed to screen for Lyme disease are known to be unreliable and those that have the disease often test negative for it and those that don’t have the disease can test positive for it. Because of the unreliability associated with Lyme disease tests, doctors will often prescribe antibiotics for tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease if a person presents with typical Lyme disease symptoms even if they test negative for it.


Treatment for Lyme disease with antibiotics can lead to speedy recovery, especially with an early diagnosis. Preventative methods to from getting Lyme disease in the first place can be equally as helpful. Tying up long hair, wearing long-sleeved clothing and closed-toed shoes, and using insect repellent are all good ways to avoid tick bites when outside. Ticks tend to collect in moist, shady areas or places with tall grass or shrubs, so remaining vigilant when outdoors is a good practice towards avoiding Lyme completely.