A few weeks ago I found out that I have Lyme Disease.
I’m not sure when I got it- a week, a month, a year ago- but I can tell you that regardless of timing, it is not a fun experience. I’ll share the full story about my symptoms and how I got diagnosed with me email list at some point, but for now I want to share what YOU can do to protect yourself.
I have been doing lots of reading about Lyme, and I will continue to do so as the awareness and research of the disease expands. Although my experience is still ongoing, I wanted to share what I have learned so far in hopes that it may help prevent one of you from getting Lyme.
First things first: What exactly is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread mainly by ticks (see below), but can also be carried by mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects. If left untreated Lyme can lead to an expansive list of issues, not just the widely known joint pain that most of us think of when we think of Lyme (I’ll get to the specific symptoms shortly).
If you live in the Northeast or Midwest US, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has Lyme (even if it hasn’t been diagnosed)…
An estimated 300k people in the U.S. get Lyme disease each year, although everything I’ve read and heard from the doctors says that the real number is higher than that and will probably peak this upcoming summer.
That number is unsettling, but even more scary is the fact that only 30k of that 300k are actually diagnosed.
Hopefully I have your attention now…
So now that you know about Lyme, how can you prevent it?
- Cover as much of your body as possible when you are in grassy or wooded areas.
- Use insect repellents. There are mixed opinions on the safety of products containing DEET, but there are plenty of DEET-free options.
- When you hike through the woods or a grassy area, walk in the center of the path, away from the brush.
- When you come back inside, check your body AND your clothing. If a tick gets on your pants and you carry it inside, it could get to your skin later when you aren’t looking out for it. (Also make sure to check your pets for ticks if they go outdoors!)
- Take a shower after you come inside and try to check yourself as you wash.
If you do find a tick…
Don’t freak out! You’ll be fine. Here’s what you do:
- Remove it quickly but make sure to do it properly. You can use the instructions from the CDC here, or go to your doctor and have them remove it for you. They even have tools you can use to remove ticks, although I have never tried these so I can’t attest to their quality.
- Once removed, place the tick in a Ziploc bag and bring it with you to the doctor so they can test it for Lyme disease. I know that sounds extreme, but Lyme is difficult to diagnose and it may not even show up on a blood test until weeks after exposure. And with Lyme, the sooner you catch it the better.
Do you think you have Lyme? Here are some symptoms to look out for…
Symptoms for Lyme are literally all over the place. Lyme is called “the great imitator” because it can mimic virtually any disease.
My symptoms started out looking flu-like:
- Body aches
- No appetite
- I did NOT get the standard bulls-eye rash, and you might not either. The CDC website tells us that 70-80% of people get a rash, although my doctor said it’s closer to 50% with his patients. I think that’s because people get them in places that they don’t see in the mirror- back, scalp, bottom of the foot etc.
Long-term symptoms can look like chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, neuropathy, etc.
After taking antibiotics I continued to get a random mix of symptoms, and some of them were serious and very scary (heart palpitations, numbness in my extremities and face, and fainting). It’s not a waiting game to see what else comes up and what I can do for treatment in the future.
Long story short…
I never thought twice about Lyme and I rarely checked myself for ticks after going outside. I hope I’ve convinced you to be smarter than I was. Check yourselves, and be aware that Lyme can manifest itself through a vast array of symptoms.
If you have questions or you’re struggling with Lyme yourself and just feel like chatting, I got you. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up for my email list here. Take care, friends <3