Information: Lyme Disease

Now the warm weather is here and people are spending more time outdoors they are at greater risk of contracting the illness.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected tick and causes a range of unpleasant symptoms which may include a circular red rash, headaches, a stiff neck, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and disturbances of sight, hearing, digestive system and sleep. If left untreated it can progress to the joints, the heart and the nervous system. If caught early however, it is usually curable with a short course of antibiotics.

Ticks are present in both Richmond Park and Bushy Park and can be found in gardens, parks and woods throughout the country. There are some basic precautions people can take to reduce the risk of being bitten by ticks: Lyme Disease Action recommends the following:

  • Wear long sleeves and trousers
  • Wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to spot
  • Use an insect repellent effective against ticks (look for those containing the chemical DEET)
  • Keep to pathways and try to avoid areas of overgrown vegetation
  • Check for ticks regularly during the day
  • Remove any ticks found attached as soon as possible
  • Pack a tick remover if walking or holidaying away from home

Ticks are often difficult to spot as they can be as small as a full stop on an A4 page. They should be removed immediately with a tick removal tool or fine pointed tweezers. Gently pull the tick’s body away from your skin directly outwards, without jerking. Do not try to pull the tick out with your fingers, burn the tick or cover it with creams or chemicals.

If you have been bitten by a tick and notice any adverse symptoms seek medical help straight away.

from Camilla Colley, Lyme Disease Action, www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk

Lyme disease: know the facts

Download an informational poster [PDF 98k]

Lyme Disease Action (LDA) is a UK-registered charity striving for the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease and associated tick borne diseases. Ticks are tiny parasitic, blood-sucking arthropods related to spiders, mites and scorpions. There are many different species of tick in the UK, each preferring to feed on the blood of different animal hosts – though they will feed on human blood too if given the chance.

What is Lyme disease and what are its symptoms?

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected tick and causes a wide range of symptoms which may include a circular red “bull’s eye” rash, headaches, a stiff neck, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and disturbances of sight, hearing, digestive system and sleep.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks can be found all over the UK in gardens, woods, moors, and parks - London parks are no exception. They are also found across Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and North America. NOT ALL ticks carry Lyme disease. Infection rates in tick populations vary by tick species and geographic region.

How do you remove a tick?

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible with a tick removal tool which hooks underneath the tick, or fine pointed tweezers. Disinfect the area around the bite using antiseptic cream. DO NOT try to pull the tick out with your fingers, burn the tick or cover it with creams or chemicals.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

The symptoms mentioned above may appear between two and 30 days after a tick bite. Although a rash may appear quite shortly after a tick bite, blood tests will probably be negative initially. The test detects antibodies produced by the body in response to the infection, but they are not produced in detectable amounts for several weeks, or sometimes months, after infection. Many patients with untreated Lyme disease have positive blood tests within three to six weeks of being infected – but some never produce enough antibodies to achieve a positive blood test.

Lyme Disease Action recommends treatment according to clinical diagnosis.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

Diagnosed and treated at an early stage, it is usually curable with antibiotics, but in the UK there is a problem with a lack of early diagnosis. Due to widespread lack of knowledge and awareness regarding tick-borne diseases - by GPs and the medical profession as a whole - many people with typical symptoms will not actually be tested for the disease. Many people with Lyme disease do not receive treatment at all because they remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Can Lyme disease be prevented?

There are many measures you can take to protect yourself from infection. These include wearing suitable clothing (keep your arms and legs covered) and frequently checking the skin for ticks. Make sure you know how to remove a tick properly and seek medical advice promptly if you notice any symptoms.

26 May 2010 | Category » news

Comments

Thank you for highlighting this important subject. As someone who has been affected by Lyme disease I am passionate about telling others to protect themselves.

I was lucky in that I was diagnosed and treated quickly, although it was touch and go for a short while because I got Lyme disease meningitis and was in intensive care for a short while.

Even after treatment I had ongoing symptoms and it was the charity Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK (BADA UK) who told me to go back to see my doctor, which I did and ended up on another course of treatment which finally got me back to good health.

Borreliosis (Lyme disease) is becoming more prevalent and so people need to be aware. BADA UK also have posters and leaflets to download and a mass of information on their website. Every April they also have a national awareness week http://www.tickpreventionweek.org/ and this is how I ended up getting in touch with them. Tick Prevention Week encourages people to take precautions against tick bites and to protect their pets too.

More information can be accessed at http://www.bada-uk.org/

And for leaflets and posters http://www.bada-uk.org/learn/download.php

It really shouldn’t fall to the two charities (BADA UK and LDA) to inform the public. This should be public health issue funded by the department of health. However, I’m very grateful for the invaluable work these two charities do.

Andy at 26 May 2010 3:52 PM

How pleased I am to see this article on Lyme Disease. Hopefully it will help raise awareness and protect others from contracting this horrible disease.

Sadly I was not aware that Lyme disease could be caught in the UK I had thought it unique to USA.

It took 5 doctors and 3 rheumatologists 4 years to diagnose me. I had chronic arthritis and muscle weakness and was retired early from the Civil Service on the grounds of ill health.

As my symptoms progressed I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, then Arthritis, Muscle weakness, Musculo skeletal disease, Polymyalgia Rheumatica and finally Lyme disease.

It was a chance course of antibiotics which significantly improved my symptoms that led my GP to suspect Lyme Disease. I had attended the surgery at times of Bites, Bulls eye rashes, sunner Flu’ and migrating arthralgias all documented in my notes but missed by doctors. I had even asked one GP if my arthritis could be connected with a bite to which she had said no.

Prior to my final diagnosis there had been other cases of Lyme Disease presented at my surgery in the early stages where the patient had contracted it from my locality. I live by the woods where deer graze and which are over run by pheasants (competant hosts for borrelia like many other mammals). The pheasants are bred by the local landowner.

After many months of antibiotics I have recovered my health nearly 100% I can garden again and cycle. For 3 1/2 years I could not walk up or down stairs properly and at my worst had difficulty standing and walking across a room.

Many of the people I have contacted with Lyme disease have serious neurological symptoms, some have been diagnosed with MS but their symptoms respond to antibiotics. I was lucky I only had a few Peripheral Neuropathies, tingling and twitching in my arms, legs and face, but my worst symptom was dysphagia, swallowing difficulties. All gone now thank goodness.

Sadly my story is like so many more, opportunities missed to treat an early infection which could so easily have been dealt with by a short course of antibiotics.

Research shows that the blood tests for Lyme can miss up to 50% of cases and whilst our doctors are not expert in this field, Lyme Disease is an emerging disease there is still much that science has not discovered about it’s complex mechanisms, we need to be our own best advocates.

Children sadly are the most vulnerable playing in long grass and if bitten by the nymph tick it could easily be missed as it is only the size of a poppy seed. Not everyone gets the tell tale Bulls eye rash and if symptoms develop long after the bite we may not always link back to that bite.

Again many thanks for raising awareness in your community.

Joanne at 27 May 2010 8:53 AM

Lyme is already rife in the UK but still relatively unheard of or else people have the misconception that it is rare. I was bitten by a tick in Bushy Park in 2007, where I used to walk regularly to see the deer and beautiful scenery. I was blissfully ignorant due to NO warning signs about ticks, hence when the bulls-eye rash presented, I thought I was just having a “reaction” to a bite and didn’t seek medical advice until the joint pain started months later. I am glad to hear in recent publications that leaflets and hopefully signs at the entrances to the Royal Parks will now be available.

These bugs can transmit different types of bacteria and parasites, and yet the NHS tests are still not very reliable or sensitive. The Lyme bacteria Borrelia, has over 300 strains alone, and European strains include B.Garinii and B.Afzelii. I had to go private and get my blood sent to the US to detect these European strains!

Websites - www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk and www.bada-uk.org give invaluable information on tick borne diseases.

Enlightened80 at 27 May 2010 2:19 PM

There is now a petition to ask the government to do something

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/uklymepetition/

Like the first commentator said, how is it that charities have to be the ones warning people of the dangers and advising on treatment? We need concerted government action on this because it’s becoming a dangerous problem.

It took me 20 years to find out that my ME and fibromyalgia were really Lyme disease, after getting bitten by 12 ticks in Scotland. I’m still very disabled by the illness, and have no idea what co-infections I have.

All my medicines, apart from the painkillers, are having to be bought privately because the NHS says that “chronic Lyme does not exist and extra antibiotics are not necessary and won’t do any good, and besides, there are too many antibiotics being taken etc.” Would they say that to somone with TB or Leprosy or syphilis I wonder?

The Dutch people gathered 65,000 signatures this year, because they too are having problems with the diagnosis and treatment which is often not adequate. They reckon they now have nearly half a million chronically ill Lyme patients.

I would be grateful if your readers would have a look at the very reasonable demands of the petition, and please support us. Two previous petitions plus meetings with MPs and health ministers have always ended up with the UK’s one expert saying that there is no problem with the tests, yet in the next sentence they say they are continually working to make the tests better. Seems like doublespeak to me.

People who really want to support us even more, please copy the petition and print it out and send it to the address mentioned on the petition site, with as many names as you can get signed up.

We want to be heard and we need to protect people, especially children, who are the ones who are more likely to get close to animals and nature. Also, retired people are going out for walks in the country much more, or doing lots of gardening, and they represent one of the high risk groups.

Lyme can even cause strokes, hearty block and eyesight problems; it really is the “great imitator” which was the term used to describe syphilis in the last century. No wonder it’s hard to diagnose, but that’s why we need to stop people getting it in the first place by having lots of awareness.

Thanks for having the article on your forum - one of my friends got Lyme from Bushy park and they are still not better 20 years later.

Denise at 27 May 2010 10:36 PM

Great article. I would like to add the suggestion to wear socks that help stop the tick. On the website www.stopthetick.co.uk you can find a (subtitles) movie about ticks and the fact that ticks come from below (not from trees)

Sabine de Witte at 9 June 2010 12:28 PM

One important thing to know is that many people, including me, who develop Chronic Lyme are not always aware of tick bites. Because it has been around for decades, it is likely that the disease has spread to all biting insects e.g. moquitos.
If it hadn’t been for my friend Denise [above] advising me 6 years ago to get private tests for Lyme Disease, by now I would certainly be housebound, if not confined to bed.
Prior to that the only diagnosis I had for the many distressing symptoms affecting both body & brain functioning was Hypothyroidism & ME/CFS. I was never offered any tests by NHS GPs to find out what was causing the non-thyroid symptoms.
Prior to becoming ill I’d been super fit, earning my living in a job I loved, had a good social life & many other interests.
As well as Lyme Borreliosis, I’ve developed several co-infections, including cryptostrongilus pulmoni, Cpn[chlamidial pneumonia], BLO [Bartonella like organisms], all of which seem to be controlled to a certain extent by:- antibiotics, LDN, several high strength anti-oxidants & other supplements. The most limiting symptom is having at best 10% of my original energy levels.
I have no choice than to live on State Benefits, so I have not been able to afford the full treatment, which would have given me a much better chance of recovery.
Leaving so many people undiagnosed & untreated is a terrible waste of human, financial & social resources; not to mention the despair & misery of enduring such a limiting misunderstood disease.

Clare at 23 September 2010 6:11 PM

I had a dutch test which is based on a German test
it came back +ve..
I was initually treated for Lyme Disease then one of the GP`s at the practice decieded to use electronic medicine on me without my consent then deny it. (He was and still is playing with everyone Rife and quantum healing are some of the many names used its a form of what used to be called Radionics) This treatement can mask the condition and other conditions. A number of doctors know this treatment is not all it appears to be cracked up to be but they refuse to do anything. As their jobs are on the line from uning it themselves they don`t know what they`ve done either to themselves or their patients.

Nursing Times in the 1980`s said electronic medicine was the medicine of the Future. Which basically means they can transmit any medicine to you electronically without your consent. Any chemical can be simulated electrically..
Other doctors refuse to believe that there is a large number of doctors using this treatment both above and under the count.. A lot of doctors are of the mason persuiation..

The BMA complained in 2000 that the GMC was run by mason doctors.. These are well into mind game
systems not only with and by themselve but with patients and collegues who may not share their view on the world.. I`ve found they are totally obsecesesd with these machines and nothing and no one is going to stop them. Not even God.. As they think they are Gods..

If anyone gets to read this before then Barry Trower is doing a talk about electrosensensitivity
and not secifically there is a relasionship to Lyme disesese.
He`s spent a few years as a MoD scientist in the 1960`s. The police called him in because of their health issues with microwave radio. Just like Lyme the government have sweept it under the carpet..

The Talk is at Swindon College on the 8th of October 10. 7pm for 7.30pm..

I`ve been ignored on both issues and put in a psychatric hospital last year dispite being diagnosed and being very well informed the doctor lost my notes. After bouncing me around different practices. Even when I managed to get copies of the tests back the psychatrists refused to treat me as chronic Lyme disease. with electrosenstivitivy instead I am now a delutional schizophrenic.. who is deluded about bites all over her body which I have everytime I go back to my own house I have not been living in for over a year and still having to pay for it.. Two councils need me to pay house tax.. Its a night mare..

Carol at 30 September 2010 10:39 AM

I was bitten by a tick a few years ago which went undetacted for about two months i was bitten in Germany and it wasent untill i had a red line appear that it was treated with antibiotics, since then i have not been well can this be related to Lymes

ann at 29 April 2013 10:39 PM

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