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Oct 05

Autumn in Maine, and Lyme Disease

Now that the kids are back to school, and everyone is saying “farewell” to summer, it’s easy to forget- ticks are not. These tiny little vectors of disease are still crawling about, trying to make the most of the remaining time before winter arrives. Adult female Deer Ticks are very active in August and September to find a host, because this is when they lay their eggs. Adult ticks seek out large mammals for a meal like dogs, cats, horses, deer, moose, and people. As a result, there are many cases of Lyme diagnosed during the Autumn months.

Life cycle of a Deer Tick.

Life cycle of a Deer Tick.

Some of the symptoms of Lyme include and are not limited to headache, joint and body aches, chills, low grade fever, nausea, bulls eye rash, memory and concentration issues, intense fatigue. Frequently recurring headaches, or long lasting headaches are a common symptom of Lyme patients. Persistent pain and stiffness in the neck is another. Some patients are fortunate to get the classic bulls eye rash, which puts doctors on alert to test for Lyme. (Not all people infected with Lyme will have a bulls eye rash.) Experiencing a bad “cold or flu”, and feeling like a full recovery never occurs is another common complaint of patients. Other symptoms include swelling of one, or multiple joints; Bells Palsy; heart palpitations; shortness of breath; vertigo; vision problems; swelling of lymph nodes; unexplained weight loss.

Lyme disease can be hard to get a diagnoses for, especially as many symptoms associated with Lyme, are symptoms associated with other illnesses, such as flu or the common cold, even meningitis. When school is back in session, and the weather gets colder germs and colds get passed around, and many who are older often complain the cold makes old injuries, or joints more stiff. So, it’s easy to see how one might not go to a doctor in a reasonable amount of time for symptoms thought to be caused by a seasonal cold, or ailments associated with aging. On the flip side, one can also see how doctors may not consider testing some patients for Lyme when they ought to be, because the symptoms are so much like that of other illness. For others, the symptoms are so severe, there is little doubt.

If you know you have been bitten by a Deer Tick, and you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get tested for Lyme. Some doctors still do not recognize the importance or urgency for diagnosing this disease as soon as possible. If you don’t feel like you are being taken seriously, find a doctor willing to work with you. If you are able to go to an Infectious Specialist, do so. There are few doctors that are truly “Lyme Literate”. There are even fewer that understand how to properly treat Lyme- but there are a few. In recent years there are more support groups for Lyme patients, and more information available. Just this year, the Maine CDC changed the wording in in its guidelines for diagnosing and treating Lyme, that is a little bit more patient, and doctor friendly. (This took a lot of effort on the part of advocates for Lyme patients, and the doctors who treat them.)

Don’t get discouraged! It can be confusing, there is so much to learn, and the information is always changing with ongoing research. Here are some resources for Lyme patients, and their care givers, and families that you may find helpful.

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

http://umaine.edu/ipm/ipddl/publications/5047e/

http://www.mainelyticks.com/diseases-symptoms.html

http://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/gotpests/bugs/ticks.htm