Ask A Nurse - Lyme Disease


Cathy discusses Lyme disease. She explains what causes Lyme disease, signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, and diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease, and prevention of Lyme Disease.

  • 00:00 What to expect - Lyme Disease
  • 00:16 What is Lyme disease
  • 00:37 What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
  • 1:40 How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
  • 2:28 How is Lyme disease treated?

Full Transcript: Ask A Nurse - Lyme Disease

Hi, I'm Cathy with Level Up RN. In this episode of Ask a Nurse, I'll be answering your questions about Lyme disease, such as, what are the symptoms of Lyme disease? How is Lyme disease diagnosed and treated? And how can I prevent Lyme disease? Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted via the bite of an infected tick. And the name of this bacterium is Borrelia burgdorferi. A tick typically needs to be attached for 36 to 48 hours in order for the bacterium to spread from the tick to the person. Early-stage Lyme disease can cause symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, as well as swollen lymph nodes. And then many people, but not everyone, will develop a red bullseye-type rash, which is called erythema migrans. This is a circular rash that is usually not itchy or painful, and it typically gets bigger over several days. If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, causing symptoms such as severe headaches and neck stiffness, arthritis, which can lead to severe joint pain and swelling, facial palsy, which can lead to drooping on one or both sides of the face, heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat, dizziness and shortness of breath, as well as nerve pain and numbness and tingling in the hands and/or feet.

In terms of diagnosis, if a patient lives in an area where Lyme disease is common and they have that classic red circular rash that we talked about before, then treatment with antibiotics is often initiated without the need for blood work. However, many patients do not develop a rash or may not recall having a tick bite. And some of the symptoms of Lyme disease, such as headache and joint pain, occur with other disorders as well. So in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis, your provider will likely order blood work to check for the presence of antibodies to Lyme disease. So antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that your body develops upon exposure to an infection. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline, and the earlier that treatment is started, the better the chance for a complete recovery. After treatment, a small percentage of people have symptoms such as pain and fatigue that last for more than six months. This is referred to as posttreatment Lyme disease syndrome. If this occurs, it's important to talk to your provider so they can help you manage your symptoms. And it's also important to know that most people do get better with time.

In terms of prevention, ticks live in grassy, bushy, and wooded areas, so avoiding these areas can help prevent Lyme disease. When you are hiking, you should walk in the center of the trail, and it's always best to wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. And experts recommend tucking your shirt into your pants and tucking your pants into your socks. In addition, treating your clothing and gear with a repellent that contains 0.5% permethrin is also advised. After coming indoors, you should check yourself, your children, your pets, and your gear for ticks. And it's definitely important to be very thorough. So when performing a skin check, you want to check in and around the hair, in the ears, under the arms, in the belly button, in between the legs, etc. In addition, showering within two hours of returning inside has been shown to lower the risk for getting Lyme disease. And then clothing should be washed in hot water and dried on high heat.

If you do find a tick, it's important that you remove it correctly. You want to use tweezers to firmly grasp the tick at the skin surface and pull using steady, even pressure. Once you remove the tick, you should clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. And of note, using petroleum jelly or applying a hot match to the tick to aid in removal is not recommended. For 30 days following a tick bite, you should monitor for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease that we touched on before, such as rash, fever, headache, and joint pain. And if you live in an area where Lyme disease is common, then your provider may want to order a one-time dose of doxycycline following your tick bite in order to lower your risk of developing Lyme disease.

All right. That is it for this episode of Ask a Nurse. I hope you found it to be helpful. If so, be sure to hit that like button. And if you have a health topic or question you'd like me to cover in a future episode, then definitely let me know in the comments. Stay informed and stay well.

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