Lyme disease is an illness that is transmitted through ticks. It is originally found in animals, but they make their way towards humans when being carried by mice or deer. With ticks residing mostly in the northeastern part of the United States, the people residing there are at the most risk. Around 300,000 people are reported to be infected with this illness every year. Further research is showing that Lyme Disease is more complicated than previously thought. People continue to suffer after they finish their round of medications
The tick-borne illness is caused by a bacteria. It was discovered in Connecticut nearly 40 years ago. Although it happens to be the most common infectious disease in the United States, it normally goes unreported due to a lack of recognizable symptoms. Lyme is normally recognized by the giant bull’s-eye rash that it leaves behind, however some people do not get the rash. They end up leaving the disease untreated, which causes serious complications.
Lyme disease triggers flu-like symptoms in humans and arthritis-type pain in some cases. The people who do not get the skin rash normally attribute these symptoms to other illnesses and end up causing the infection to grow. To treat the disease, doctors give patients a round of antibiotics. Even after finishing the treatment and the bacteria being undetectable in the body, various people report still suffering afterwards. This has caused the scientific community to re-examine Lyme disease because it is proving to be more complicated than previously thought. They believe that the bacteria may trigger a different disease in the body or an autoimmune disorder.
John Hopkins researchers are planning to do an in-depth study into the disease. The president of the Lyme Disease Research Foundation, Alex Mason, has expressed his support for the new study and his high hopes. He unfortunately is suffering the long-term effects of the illness. He was undiagnosed for several months, which in turn caused him to feel the consequences years after. The experience is very painful according to him. “It’s like the flu and you feel dreadful, and then it morphs into something else,” says Mason. He also reports being lethargic, having a cloudy mind and suffers from various aches.
Another person who has been afflicted by the long-lasting effects of Lyme Disease is 51 year old “hockey mom,” Deb Brown. She had no skin rash when first contracting the disease, so had no idea what was affecting her. She was sick for more than a year before being diagnosed with Lyme. It had caused her to walk around on crutches for months due to the swelling in her knees. A round of antibiotics proved to help out, but she never fully recovered. Now she participates extensively in physical activities and races as a form of therapy, even though her body requires a longer time to recover. She raises money to fund Lyme Disease research and plans to launch focus groups for people who are suffering with the long-term effects.
Government officials are also getting in on the fight against Lyme Disease. Democratic Senator, Jack Reed, has noticed that Lyme Disease has proven to be more complicated than previously thought. Last year, he successfully allowed a $23 million grant for further research on the disease. He is uniting with other colleagues to present legislation that would grant more resources to health professionals in treating and diagnosing patients.
By Frank Grados
WPRI – Sen. Reed calls for national strategy to combat Lyme disease
Duluth News Tribune – New center to focus on Lyme disease, long-term effects
Annapolis County Spectator – Just the facts about Lyme Disease
Photo Courtesy of John Tann’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License