Arthritis and Lyme Disease
How Can I Prevent Getting Lyme Disease? continued...
If an infected tick bites, it will not transmit the infection until it has had the opportunity to have its blood meal. This takes time, thus there is value in inspecting your body after outdoor activities in areas where Lyme disease is known to occur. Newly attached ticks can be easily removed before they transmit the infection.
Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid ticks in Lyme disease areas because the infection can be transferred to the unborn child. Such a prenatal infection can make the woman more likely to miscarry.
Preventative antibiotics are not generally used following all tick bites, but may be used in some special circumstances; a recent study showed that such preventive use of antibiotics is very effective.
If you are bitten by a tick, the best way to remove it is by taking the following steps:
- Tug gently but firmly with blunt tweezers near the "head" of the tick until it releases its hold on the skin
- To lessen the chance of contact with the bacterium, try not to crush the tick's body or handle the tick with bare fingers
- Swab the bite area thoroughly with an antiseptic to prevent infection
- DO NOT use kerosene, Vaseline, fingernail polish, or a cigarette butt
- DO NOT squeeze the tick's body with your fingers or tweezers.
Is There a Vaccine for Lyme Disease?
In 1998, the FDA approved a vaccine for Lyme disease called LYMErix. Although some people reported getting sick from the vaccine, the FDA found no evidence that it was dangerous. However, in February 2002, the makers of the vaccine pulled it off the market due to poor sales. Currently, there is no available vaccine on the market for Lyme disease.
What Is the Outlook for People With Lyme Disease?
Most people with Lyme disease respond well to antibiotic therapy and recover fully. Some people may have persistent symptoms or symptoms that recur, making further antibiotic treatment necessary. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause permanent damage to the heart, nervous system, and joints.
A bout with Lyme disease and successful treatment are no guarantee that the illness will be prevented in the future. The disease can strike more than once in the same individual if he or she is bitten by another tick and re-infected with the Lyme disease bacterium. The antibody test usually remains positive for months to many years after an infection. The presence of antibodies in the blood is not sufficient reason for continued or retreatment with antibiotics.