You may have Lyme disease and not even realize it
The risk of getting Lyme disease in the Garden State is high and everyone who spends any time outside is encouraged to do a self-check for ticks. But the insects are so small you may not even notice one on your body.
So how do you know if you may have been infected with Lyme?
Pat Smith, the president of the Lyme Disease Association, based in Jackson, says it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease so you can seek immediate treatment if necessary.
“Unfortunately, there’s dozens and dozens of symptoms that can occur over the course of the disease. But generally speaking there are some that appear earlier,” she said.
“Some people do not get a bull’s-eye rash but they may get another kind of a rash,” said Smith.
“Then there’s joint and muscle pain that’s often indicative of early Lyme disease, and fatigue, possibly fevers, kind of like flu-like symptoms.”
As you progress with the disease, people can get a variety of symptoms as the bacteria attacks every system in the body.
“Those symptoms can include heart palpitations. You can have headaches, tingling numbness, facial paralysis, dizziness, balance problems, tremors, confusion.”
She said you may also experience “difficulty thinking and concentrating; poor short-term memory; you can have all kinds of problems with speech; you can have eye and ear problems.”
Lyme disease can also sometimes cause depression.
“Your sleep can be disturbed. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is sometimes associated. Sometimes gastro-intestinal disturbances.”
Doctors have seen patients with a variety of symptoms at various stages so there is no reliable way to predict how this will play out.
Sometimes it appears to take a tick 24 hours to infect someone, but in certain situations infections may occur faster.
She said the general treatment for Lyme is the antibiotic doxycycline, but there is disagreement over how long you need to administer this medicine to eradicate the organism.
One school of thought believes two weeks is sufficient but “many researchers now feel that the organism isn’t necessarily eradicated by a few weeks," Smith said.
She said a list of Lyme literate physicians in New Jersey is available at lymediseaseassociation.org.