Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia, a spirochete bacteria. It’s the most common tick-borne disease in the northern hemisphere and there are multiple strains of the bacteria. Lyme disease is endemic in many parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in woodland or heath-land areas but disease carrying ticks can also be found in cities and gardens.
Public Health England estimates that there are 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease per year. However, this is likely to be a gross underestimate. There is a discrepancy in estimations and the exact number will likely remain unknown, due to the fact that Lyme disease is not a reportable condition and there are still many UK healthcare professionals and patients who are not able to identify and diagnose the condition.
Symptoms can start with an erythema migrans (EM) rash, often described as a bulls-eye rash, but it can also be more irregular, which sometimes leads to a misdiagnosis of ringworm or cellulitis. It’s important to note that not every Lyme disease patient will experience or remember a rash, as figures state that the rash appears in two out of every three Lyme patients. The rash may not appear straight away. We advise people to draw a ring around suspicious looking rashes to track any potential changes.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can include malaise, unexplained flu-like symptoms, soreness and achiness, light and noise sensitivity, cogntitive problems, fatigue, a stiff neck, facial palsy, numbness and tingling, Left untreated, the infection can spread anywhere in the body leading to around 70 recognised symptoms. People can develop issues with their endocrine and neurological systems and experience musculoskeletal, cardiac, dermatological and neuropsychiatric problems.
There are a number of actions you can take to stay safe and alert.
1. Wear insect repellent during outdoor activities
2. Avoid walking through long grass and stick to pathways
3. Wear light coloured clothing and brush off any visible ticks
4. If you have to walk in long grass tuck your trousers into socks
5. Shower and check for ticks when you get home
Visit www.lymediseaseuk.com to find out more and join the awareness campaign.