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Lyme disease: Symptoms, causes, treatment of the condition that Justin Bieber has contracted

India has not seen many cases of lyme disease.

ET Online|
Updated: Jan 14, 2020, 03.09 PM IST
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​Justin Bieber opened up about his struggle with Lyme disease, last week.​
Justin Bieber opened up about his struggle with Lyme disease, last week.
Last week, American singer Justin Bieber, who made his debut with first single 'One Time' and shot to fame with 'Sorry' in 2009, opened up about his struggle with Lyme disease.

Confirming the news on Instagram, the 25-year-old singer said that he had a serious case of chronic mono (an Epstein-Barr virus infection) that affected his skin, brain function, energy and overall health. He also called out the trolls for judging how he 'looks' these days.


Soon after his revelation, his fans started researching about the condition, and it became one of the top trending words.

Here's everything you should know about the condition:

What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease, a common vector-borne condition in the United States, is transmitted through infected deer ticks. Also known as Lyme borreliosis, it is a bacterial disease caused by the borrelia bacterium which is spread by the black-legged, Ixodes ticks which are usually of the Ixodes scapularis type.

How do people contract the disease?
The small ticks feed on blood of birds and mice, and then bite humans, contaminating their blood. After the tick injects the bacteria into the blood, the bacteria grows locally which is called Early-localised disease. When it spreads into the blood it is called disseminated disease, which causes damage to various organs. Later, it causes various complication of the lymes disease.

These ticks are found in shrubs, bushes and on wooded areas, and may get attached to the human host when they come in contact during outdoor activities.

All ticks do not carry the organism, but when they do, they need to be attached to the host for a period of at least 36 to 48 hours, in order to transmit the bacterium.

Causes
The cause is only one - a bite from deer tick. There is no other cause.

ticks_Lyme disease_iStock
Look out for ticks on the body (which are the size of poppy seeds), and put your clothes in a hot dryer to get rid of ticks.

Who does it affect?
From a child to an adult and an elderly, lyme disease can affect anyone. Anyone who gets bitten by a tick carrying the virus can be infected.

Does it affect Indians?
India has not seen many cases of lyme disease. While this condition is uncommon in the country, the rural areas in Haryana has seen a handful of cases reported.

In the last couple of years, the Trans Himalaya region has also reported a few cases.

Every year, only 3000 to 5000 Indians are diagnosed with lyme disease, whereas 300,000 people suffer from the same in USA despite having a smaller population as compared to us. This disease is common in European countries, the USA, and Arabian countries. However, one has to be aware of its presence with international travel.

Symptoms
The symptoms occur 3-30 days after a bite and vary depending on the stage of the infection.

Early manifestations are flu-like, including fever, fatigue, myalgia, viral fever, body pain, headache, joint pains and swollen lymph nodes. The most specific symptom is a rash that is called erythema migrans.

Lyme disease-mark_iStock
Once a person is bitten, after three to twelve days, the bite marks show and the rash forms.

In 80 per cent of the patients, a characteristic rash that looks like a bull’s eye mark appears at the site of the bite. Once a person is bitten, after three to twelve days, the bite marks show and rash forms. It occurs approximately within the month of the infection. The size of the rash could be as large as one foot.

If not diagnosed and treated on time, the infection may progress to involve the heart and the nervous system causing an irregular heartbeat and facial nerve palsy. Organs like eyes and heart are also affected after couple of weeks or months.

Late disseminated disease may occur months to years after the bite, causing arthritis, fatigue and mental confusion, leading to a diagnostic dilemma. Around 10 per cent of the patients develop chronic symptoms such as arthritis, fatigue, in spite of treatment. Patients who have joint problems, pains, swelling can also be a patient of lyme disease.

Precautions
Prevention is the best way to avoid lyme disease. It is wise to shower after coming indoors. Watch out for ticks on the body (which are the size of poppy seeds) and put clothes in a hot dryer to get rid of ticks.

While going on adventure trips in wildlife, a person should be careful. It is one of the ways to avoid getting the disease. People should wear clothes with long sleeves because ticks usually bite the exposed areas.

If you see an unusual rash on your body, visit a doctor. Once the rash is discovered, it can be treated. Avoid going in shrubs, bushes and tall glass when outdoors. Use insect repellant sprays if you happen to go in.

ticks-Lyme disease_iStock
Always use insect repellant sprays when going outdoors.

Another precaution one can take against lyme disease is to stay away from animals that could have the ticks.

Few such animals are:
  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Cattles
  • Raccons
  • Squirrels
  • Deer
  • Rodents

Treatment
Timely diagnosis, clinical features and relevant blood tests would lead to early treatment. Antibiotics, oral and injections, both are available. The treatment take about three to four weeks. This condition is completely treatable.

Adults, non-pregnant, non-lactating mothers, and children above age of 8 are given doxycycline. The duration of the treatment is 14-21 days. Pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age group of 8 are given Amoxicillin.

There is no vaccine to prevent lyme disease. However, the US healthcare organisations are developing a drug to get rid of this tick and the disease.

(Inputs from Dr Rahul Gupta, Consultant, Neuro & Spine Surgery, Fortis Hospital in Noida, DR P Venkata Krishnan, Sr Consultant - Internal Medicine - at Paras Hospitals in Gurgaon, Dr Amitabha Ghosh, Consultant - Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurgaon, and Dr Mala Kaneria, Consultant - Infectious Specialist at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai)

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