“Lyme disease is dangerous because it can make you sick quickly, and if left untreated, the disease can create long-term health problems” said Joseph Gross, MD, infectious disease specialist at Pentucket Medical Associates in Newburyport. These long-term health problems may include:
- Chronic arthritis, which usually causes severe swelling in one knee.
- Nervous system problems including meningitis, Bell’s palsy, weakness, pain, or both, in the hands, arms, feet and/or legs.
- The heart can also be affected by Lyme disease, causing a slowing down of the heart rate and fainting.
“Everyone should know the symptoms of Lyme disease,” said Dr. Gross. “It’s important so that you can describe them to your physician. Symptoms include fever, headache, unusual fatigue, and a characteristic red round or oval expanding skin rash like a “bull’s eye.”
Based on physical findings, a blood test, and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks, your doctor can determine if you are suffering from Lyme disease. Dr. Gross said, “Most cases of Lyme disease are treated successfully with a 2 to 4 week course of antibiotics.”
Follow these steps to protect yourself:
- Use a repellent with DEET or Permethrin. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age.
- Wear long, light-colored pants tucked into your socks or boots, and a long- sleeved shirt so you can see ticks that may be on your clothing.
- Stay on cleared trails when walking or hiking.
- Talk to your veterinarian about tick control options (tick collars, repellents) for your pets.
Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Lyme disease in Massachusetts is “a public health crisis,” according to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.