When a person has been bitten by a tick and becomes infected with Lyme disease, noticing a bullseye-shaped rash is one of the more common signs. However, not everyone will be able to spot an infection by a rash. Different symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, joint pain, heart palpitations or pain in the head. If you have been experiencing recurrent headaches it could be a warning.
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Around 50 percent of people with Lyme disease experience flu-like symptoms within a week of being infected.
The symptoms may be low-level and often a person does not think Lyme disease is the cause for these headaches.
In fact, distinguishing Lyme disease symptoms can often be mistaken for having a flu or a viral infection.
But around 78 percent of children reported first experiencing headaches and 48 percent of adults revealed headaches as the first warning sign.
Unlike suffering from a flu or viral infection, symptoms of Lyme disease come and go.
Some people with Lyme disease also experience flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as tiredness, muscle pain, joint pain, a high temperature, and chills.
Doctor Joshua Berkowitz, co-founder and medical director of the Lyme Disease Clinic and host of the UK Lyme Disease Conference said: “Many doctors and the general public are unaware how serious and how chronic Lyme disease can become and by the time I see patients some have been ill for many years and seen many doctors.
“Often, patients have been told their symptoms are psychosomatic or the result of depression.
“Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose and treat so a concerted effort is needed from the medical community and all stakeholders to pull in the same direction to achieve results quickly.”
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If Lyme disease is left untreated, more serious signs and symptoms may develop several weeks, months or even years later.
These can include:
- Pain and swelling in the joints (inflammatory arthritis)
- Problems affecting the nervous system – such as numbness and pain in your limbs, paralysis of your facial muscles, memory problems and difficulty concentrating
- Heart problems – such as inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis), heart block and heart failure
- Inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) – which can cause a severe headache, a stiff neck and increased sensitivity to light
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added: “The National Institutes of Health funded several studies on the treatment of Lyme disease that show most people recover when treated within a few weeks of antibiotics taken.
“In a small percentage of cases, symptoms such as fatigue and muscle aches can last for more than six months.
“This condition is known as Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, although its often-called chronic Lyme disease.”
According to Mayo Clinic, the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid areas where deer ticks live, especially wooded, bushy areas with long grass.
If wooded, bushy areas cannot be avoided, the NHS recommends:
- Covering skin while walking outdoors and tucking trousers into socks
- Using insect repellent on clothes and skin – products containing DEET are best
- Stick to paths whenever possible
- Wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to spot and brush off
- Taking measures to reduce the risk is more pressing than ever.
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