The Bug in Your Yard That Could Make You Sick for Years

A common insect spreading an easy-to-cure disease is becoming a source of concern with researchers pointing out that its bite can lead to years of suffering and major health issues. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is caused by a tick bite. According to data compiled at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, anywhere between 240,000 to 440,000 people worldwide newly acquire this infection every year. The costs for treatment are escalating, with medical expenses linked to Lyme ranging between $712 million and $1.3 billion annually. This averages to about $3,000 per person who contracts the disease.

It was previously thought that Lyme disease could be cured with a short round of antibiotics, but for many people that therapy doesn’t solve the problem. The continued suffering leads to years of medical tests and treatments with pharmaceutical drugs. When individuals suffer a prolonged case of Lyme disease, it is called either post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) or chronic Lyme disease. However, some healthcare practitioners argue that the condition could be more psychological than physical.

In any case, the condition leads to continued illness and medical costs. Researcher Emily Adrion says, “Our study looks at the actual costs of treating patients in the year following their Lyme diagnosis. Regardless of what you call it, our data show that many people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease are, in fact, going back to the doctor with complaints of persistent symptoms, getting multiple tests and being retreated. They cost the health care system about $1 billion a year and it is clear that we need effective, cost-effective, and compassionate management of these patients to improve their outcomes even if we don’t know what to call the disease.”

Lyme disease was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. It mainly occurs along the east coast, from Maine to Virginia. The tick bite that causes Lyme initially forms a circular rash on the skin, although some Lyme victims say they never developed this rash. The disease can lead to nerve problems and rheumatic issues if left untreated.

The generally recommended treatment for Lyme disease is a course of the antibiotic doxycycline, but the drug does not always cure the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that up to 20% of people given antibiotics for Lyme continue to have problems with the disease. But the Bloomberg research found that over 60% of people treated for Lyme continued to have some level of difficulties with PTLDS.

Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed due to its symptoms, which are similar to other conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and even multiple sclerosis. This can lead to incorrect or inadequate treatment, further adding to the suffering of the individual. It is essential to diagnose and treat Lyme disease promptly, as delayed treatment can lead to more severe and long-lasting symptoms.

Prevention is better than cure, and certain precautionary measures can be taken to prevent tick bites and reduce the chances of Lyme disease. These include:

  • Avoiding areas with high grass and leaf litter or where ticks are known to be present.
  • Covering up with long-sleeved shirts, pants, and closed-toe shoes when in wooded areas.
  • Tucking pants into socks and shirts into pants to create a physical barrier.
  • Using insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET on exposed skin.
  • Treating clothes and gear with products that contain 0.5% permethrin or using pre-treated clothing.
  • Taking a shower within two hours of coming indoors to wash off any unattached ticks.
  • Conducting a full-body check to remove ticks from clothes and skin.

By recognizing the symptoms of Lyme disease and taking preventive measures, the risk of contracting the disease can be minimized. This, in turn, will lead to reduced medical expenses and a better quality of life for those affected by this increasingly common and debilitating condition.