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Lyme disease.

WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?

Lyme disease is an infection transmitted to humans by tiny ticks. The illness is named after the town of Old Lyme, Conn., where the first cases were recognized in 1975. The first noticeable symptom is usually an expanding skin lesion at the site of a bite by an infected tick. This may be associated with fever, muscle and joint pain, headaches and other skin lesions. If not treated with antibiotics early, the illness may progress to involve the heart, nervous system, joints and other organs.

CAUSE

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial organism called a spirochete. The infection is spread through the bite of a tiny infected tick (which may be no bigger than a period at the end of a sentence--much smaller than the usual dog tick). In the United States, this tick is found mainly in three areas: the coastal Northeast and the upper Midwest where the carrier is the deer tick, and coastal California where the carrier is the western black-legged tick. The only known way of acquiring Lyme disease is from an infected tick.

HEALTH IMPACT

* Lyme disease is the most common tick-transmitted disease in the United States.

* Any individual is susceptible, but it occurs most often in children and young adults in rural areas because of their high risk for contact with infected ticks.

* All staged of Lyme disease may be cured by antibiotics; however, some individuals with late neurologic or arthritic involvement may not improve.

DIAGNOSIS

Lyme disease is diagnosed by recognizing the symptoms in individuals who have had a chance for exposure to infected ticks. After four weeks, individuals with the illness usually have abnormal blood tests. This test is not 100 percent accurate. A negative test does not completely exclude the disease and a positive test alone does not confirm a diagnosis,

TREATMENT

Early Lyme disease generally responds to oral antibiotics but may require intravenous therapy. Length of therapy may vary from ten days to four weeks, and some symptoms may continue after treatment. After a period of observation, unresolved symptoms may require additional treatment.

THE RHEUMATOLOGIST'S ROLE IN THE TREATMENT OF LYME DISEASE

Rheumatologists in the United States discovered Lyme disease and have led in the research to discover the cause, symptoms, diagnosis and therapy of the disease. The arthritic complaints that may affect individuals are best evaluated and treated by a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists also serve as consultants to primary care physicians in questions pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

If you want to find a rheumatologist in your area, check the American College of Rheumatology membership directory. If you want more information on this or any other form of arthritis, contact the Arthritis Foundation at (800) 283-7800 or visit the Arthritis Foundation web site at www.arthritis.org. The American Lyme Disease Foundation can be reached at (800) 876-LYME.

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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Pamphlet by: American College of Rheumatology
Article Type:Pamphlet
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 8, 2002
Words:480
Previous Article:Ankylosing spondylitis.
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