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Arthritis Health Center

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Another La Nina Winter Means More Lyme Disease Cases


Many rheumatologists diagnose the disease as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, but that's not correct, says Donta. "It is amenable to [antibiotic] treatment. But the longer you wait before getting treatment, the harder it is to treat."

Nancy Shadick, MD, MPH, director of the Lyme Disease Center at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, tells WebMD, "The great majority of [Lyme disease] cases can be treated effectively with antibiotics. In rare cases, or cases where people don't have treatment promptly, it can be somewhat difficult to treat, requiring another course of antibiotics or perhaps ... antibiotics [given in the vein]."

A very small number of patients -- despite treatment -- may develop 'post-Lyme disease syndrome,' which resembles fibromyalgia (with fatigue, joint aches, and difficulty concentrating), Shadick says. "It's very important to see a doctor and make sure there is not residual arthritis or joint swelling, residual signs of meningitis (infection of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord) or nerve damage, or even to make sure that you didn't contract a different illness [such as hypothyroidism] that could be mistaken as post-Lyme disease syndrome," she tells WebMD.

As far as prevention, the CDC recommends Lyme disease vaccinations for anyone between ages 15 and 70 who are considered at high risk and whose exposure to tick-infested areas is frequent or prolonged. However, Mather adds a caveat, "The Lyme vaccine doesn't protect against similar-appearing [though rarer] infections like ehrlichiosis or borrelia, which are transmitted by ticks also. From a public health standpoint, the vaccine gives people a false sense of security. They think they don't have to worry, but they do have to worry about these other types of infections."

Wearing long-sleeved shirts, with long pants tucked into shoes; spraying DEET repellants on clothing; and performing daily 'tick checks' -- of humans and pets -- are most effective preventive measures, the CDC advises. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers and take it to your doctor for analysis.

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