Lyme disease is something you might get from a nasty little insect called a tick. Thousands of people in this country are bitten by ticks every year. Sometimes this will be more than just the insect bite, sometimes a tick bite can result in an infection with serious complications - including long-term neurological problems.
Lyme disease is not contagious between people, you won’t catch it from someone else – just from those tick bites.
Ticks are a kind of insect found in woodlands and areas with long grass, the kind of places where deer live. Ticks like biting deer, but they're not just in the countryside - sometimes ticks are in urban areas with parks too, and dogs can get bitten by ticks as well.
The bite passes on an infection, which can have different effects, and which make it more difficult to diagnose.
The number of cases in Britain seems to be rising, and this may well be due to the climate change caused by global warming
Unfortunately, not many GPs understand or even recognise Lyme disease. The disease can often take weeks to develop, and even then the current tests for Lyme disease look like they miss as many as two out of three cases. You might just be sent from one specialist to another, and many people end up not being diagnosed or treated properly at all.
If left untreated potential long-term problems may develop such as: fatigue, numbness, pain, and problems with thinking, or other neurological problems. Other possible health issues include: facial palsy, meningitis and maybe even heart problems. If you are diagnosed early on, you will be treated with a long course of antibiotics, and if you seem to develop neurological problems you should be referred to a neurological service.
There are currently no Lyme disease specialist clinics in the NHS, or even any Lyme disease experts! The charity Lyme Disease Action is campaigning for a specialist treatment service to be provided by the NHS.
Lyme Disease Action: www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk
Photo credit: Pete Andrews, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.