By Maaike Plug
When you think of summer, the following thoughts will probably cross your mind: swimming, sunbathing, eating ice cream, drinking cocktails until late in the evening and chilling with friends in the park. There is, however, a silent killer that could cause a horrible disease with several symptoms. I am talking about Lyme disease, caused by a tick.
Well, it is actually not the tick that causes Lyme disease, but the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi. This bacteria can occur in the blood of small rodents or birds. When the tick bites these animals, the bacteria will be transferred to the tick along with the blood. Subsequently, when humans get bitten by the tick, they will be infected with Borrelia Burgdorferi. Luckily, only 1 out of 5 ticks carry the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria so the chance of receiving Lyme disease is low. Every year, over 1 million people get bitten by a tick in the Netherlands, whereof 2 out of 100 people will get Lyme disease (27.000 patients a year) .
The diagnosis of Lyme disease can be made through the symptom pattern in combination with a serologic blood test for Borrelia-antibodies . The first symptom of Lyme disease is a skin lesion called erythema migrans at the site of a tick bite. However, only 80% of the patients with Lyme disease will develop an erythema migrans . Patients with an early infection will be treated with antibiotics, such as oral doxycycline or amoxicillin . When untreated, patients can develop a headache, neurologic or cardiac abnormalities, like loss of power, tingling sensations in the limbs and/or palpitations, fever or arthritis after a few weeks or months. The disease is then chronic and can be very intense for patients. Treatment then also consists of antibiotics, but some problems might still remain, such as chronic fatigue, encephalopathy, depression, schizophrenia or acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans . Some studies even demonstrated that prolonged treatment with antibiotics can increase the risk of this symptoms, due to resistance of the Borrelia Burgdorferi against the antibiotics .
Although not every tick carries the Borrelia Burgdorferi, it is important to check for ticks when you have been outside, especially because ticks can be found in high grass and in particular, the forest. In this way, you can enjoy the summer and still be protected against Lyme disease and its symptoms.
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