Lyme Arthritis Basics

Lyme arthritis primarily targets the knee joints. The disease is caused by tick bites which carry the borellia burgdorferi bacterium. Studies show that the burgdorferi can cause the wearing down of cartilages at joints. Discover ways to keep ticks out of your body and your living premises by reading the article below.

The “Lyme disease” is caused by a tick-borne infection. Also known as “Borreliosis”, it is said to be caused by bacteria from the genus Borellia. This disease is transmitted by tiny insects called ticks. Ticks thrive in dense woody forest regions where there is abundant vegetation, grass and bushes. The insects are hard to detect because they are as small as specs of pepper or sand.

Earlier, the Lyme disease was more prevalent in Europe but it has recently been observed in the United States as well. Experts are of the opinion that untreated Lyme disease can make recovery slow. Worse still, it can leave behind the symptoms even after the infection is ousted with. One of the most serious outcomes of untreated or neglected Lyme disease is “arthritis”.

Lyme arthritis is a severe condition of inflammation, pain and stiffness felt mainly at the knee joints. It is caused by the painless bite of an infected tick. It is therefore unlikely for a Lyme arthritis sufferer to recall the bite. The tick remains embedded in the skin long before it falls off. One way to reduce the adversities of the bite is to pick the insects with a tweezer.

Causes of Lyme Arthritis

Lyme arthritis is caused by the bacteria injected with the bite of the ixodes scapularis tick. This germ or bacterium that infects the bloodstream is called the “Borellia Burgdorferi Spirochete”. The life span of the ixodes scapularis tick is two years over which it covers the larva, nymph and adult stage. At its final or adult stage the insect feeds on the blood of mammals.

While sucking the blood, the microscopic tick transports the bacterium into the bloodstream. This harmful bacterium called the Borellia Burgdorferi eventually travels through the entire body. When neglected, the bacterium has the capacity of infecting the joints, the nervous system, heart and the skin. The visible symptoms of the infected parts are marked by stiffness, swelling and pain.

Two types of tick carry the bacteria namely:

  • The deer ticks
  • The western black-legged ticks

Symptoms of Lyme Arthritis

Skin rashes and flu like symptoms coupled with fatigue, joint aches and nausea are the initial landmarks of the Lyme disease. Joint pain occurs immediately after the rashes appear. In the absence of skin rashes the typical symptoms of arthritis are helpful in confirming the Lyme disease.

The most common symptoms of Lyme arthritis are a result of the Lyme disease. The Lyme disease occurs in three stages with typically associated symptoms as listed below:

  • The initial symptoms are red skin rashes.
  • The following symptoms with or without the presence of skin rashes include, chills, fever, headache, joint aches, fatigue, stiff neck, backache, sore throat, nausea and vomiting.
  • The third and final stage is when the infection severely affects the joints, heart and the nervous system causing inflammation and pain.

Diagnosis for Lyme Arthritis

The diagnosis for Lyme arthritis includes the following tests:

  • A blood test called the “ELISA” test is conducted to detect the presence of antibodies fighting against the Burgdorferi bacteria.
  • A more reliable and accurate test called the “WESTERN BLOT ASSAY ANTIBODY TEST” is conducted to identify the antibodies present.

Researchers are of the opinion that blood tests are not always positive for determining the Lyme disease. Typical symptoms and one month’s history of the bite can however help in confirming Lyme arthritis.

Treatment for Lyme Arthritis

Treatments available for curing Lyme arthritis include the following options:

  • Oral antibiotics are the most preferred medicines to reduce Lyme arthritis symptoms. Doxycycline or amoxicillin are some of the medicines prescribed by the doctor.
  • Intravenous drugs are required for severe nervous system disorders.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken to reduce the swelling and pain at joints.
  • The doctor may suggest removing the fluids from the joint through a procedure called “arthrocentesis”.
  • Cortisone injections can be injected into the affected joint for immediate relief.

When to consult a doctor?

A “bull’s eye” rash on the skin should be immediately brought to the attention of a doctor. This visible symptom can help in analyzing the severity of the symptoms to follow and the effective ways to treat them. After carrying out a thorough medical examination of your disease, the doctor will arrive on a suitable treatment for you.

Tips to Prevent Lyme Arthritis

Lyme arthritis can be prevented through self care measures listed here below:

  • Always wear protective clothing when out in the woods or grassy areas.
  • Use insect repellants to keep the ticks out of sight.
  • Clean, dust and brush your pets, furniture and clothes more often.
  • Remove ticks with tweezers from your skin.
  • Wash the area of the skin with water, soap or a disinfectant after removing it with a tweezer.

Lyme arthritis symptoms are effectively cured with antibiotics within one to three weeks. Since tick bites are invisible and painless, the symptoms are on the other hand visible. So consult a doctor to avoid further complications.