You’ve probably heard all about the wild deer around our area, and if you have a garden like I do, you’ve seen the evidence that they are all around. Did you know that our area is also a hotbed for ticks – particularly those that carry Lyme Disease? There are many different kinds of ticks throughout the world and the one that carries Lyme disease is the Ixodes tick, also called the blacklegged tick or deer tick (hence my referral to the deer in our area).
Ticks are related to spiders and mites. They are arachnids, not insects. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of humans and animals in order to survive. They are called vectors (carriers) because they can feed on a Lyme disease-infected animal (such as a mouse), then carry and transmit the Lyme bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) to the next animal or person they bite. It’s estimated that about 50% of deer ticks carry Lyme.
If it wasn’t bad enough that these these ticks carry Lyme, they can also carry bacterial co-infections in addition to Lyme, such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis. These co-infections can complicate one’s Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. Lyme and it’s co-infections can be really nasty if not caught early. Prevention, early diagnosis and treatment are key to reducing the chances of becoming infected and having to live with what can many times be debilitating symptoms.
Lyme is the fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the US. Annual reported cases have increased 25-fold since 1982. Lyme infects 300,000 around people a year in the US. That’s 25,000 new cases a month, 5,700 a week, 822 a day, or 34 per hour!! And the CDC estimates that these numbers are actually much higher due to misdiagnosis, under reporting and poor testing.
If caught early, Lyme is usually treated with at least a month of antibiotics, but many people don’t remember getting bit, and many who do get bit don’t experience the famed “bullseye rash” so they may not even report the bite to their doctor. That means that it goes undiagnosed and can become much worse as the parasites multiply in the body. Yuk! Makes me shiver to think about it.
In Chinese Medicine these diseases are called Gu Syndrome. There are two types of “Gu” symptoms: digestive and neurological. Digestive symptoms can include:
- Diarrhea or loose bowels
- Abdominal gas, bloating, cramping or pain
- Intestinal bleeding
- Poor appetite or ravenous appetite including cravings for specific foods.
- Food sensitivities
Neurological symptoms may include:
- Muscle soreness, weakness and/or pain
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- Aversion to bright lights
- Numbness, tingling or neuropathy
- Headaches or migraines
- Brain fog
So, as you can see, this is something you definitely want to avoid. Last summer, I attended an advanced training on treating Lyme disease and other parasitic infections. Since then I’ve seen a number of patients who have Lyme with symptoms that were either caught late or were misdiagnosed and their symptoms have become worse and are now chronic. I use a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine to treat it and help reduce the symptoms. I also am willing to work with other medical professionals to coordinate treatments A multi-pronged approach is one of the best ways to combat the parasite and get lasting relief.
Clearly steering clear of those nasty ticks is the best approach to avoiding Lyme altogether. Wear socks and tuck your pants inside if you are out in the woods or in an area where you know there are ticks. Using insect repellent when outside is also a good idea. If you don’t want to put it on your skin, then put it on your shoes and the bottoms of your pants. Be sure to do a tick check ASAP when you come inside. The longer the tick stays on your body, the greater your chances are for getting Lyme if the tick is a carrier.
Learn More – May 13
These are just a few of the many things to know about Lyme disease and how to protect yourself. May is Lyme Awareness Month and on Monday, May 13, at 6:00, I’ll be doing an hour long informative talk about Lyme Awareness at the Peachtree City Library. Please be sure to let anyone who likes the outdoors know about this event so they can learn more about it, how to protect themselves and what to do if you do find a tick. I would love to see you and your friends and family there.