May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month!
Welcome back my darlings! It’s time for our latest installment of awareness raising health education. That sounds so boring. I promise it isn’t actually as boring as it sounds. In fact, I try really hard to make it as interesting and fun to read as possible. So, I mean, hopefully, it isn’t actually boring at all. Who’s ready to learn a little bit about Lyme disease?! (I imagine you’re all waiving your hands in the air and screaming “ooooo me! Me!”) Don’t worry, baby birds, I’ll feed you.
As I’m sure you all know, because who doesn’t get their health information from E! News, Bella Hadid (gorgeous model) has Lyme disease, as does her mother, Yolanda Hadid (of Real Housewives of Beverly Hill’s fame), and her brother Anwar (I’m sure he’s famous for something, but I don’t know what it is) also suffers from chronic Lyme disease. Before you roll your eyes at me for bringing up a celebrity, let me tell you why that’s actually pretty important and interesting.
New research suggests that there may be more than one way for Lyme disease to be contracted. It is widely known that Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of a tick that carries the infection, however, there is now thought to be more than just that one factor that leads to the development of the disease. The reason for this hypothesis is because of the fact that it is not uncommon for multiple members of a family to develop the disease. If there were not other factors in play, it seems unlikely that it would be common for more than one person living in the same house to be bitten by the same tick. When I say “multiple members of a family living in the house”, what I’m referring to is that they share the same micro biome environment, and not that they were bitten by the same tick that somehow found its way inside.
Micro biomes are specific to each household and therefore people who all live together share similar bacteria in their guts. The environment shapes their health. If one person has a predisposition to a health issue, then it is likely that the others members of the household also share the predisposition. Keep in mind; we are not talking about genetic factors here, because Lyme disease is not hereditary. What we are talking about is how the environment of a group of people who cohabitate can affect their health in similar ways. A deficiency in an aspect of gut bacteria, which greatly affects our health and abilities to fight off illness, may indicate the same deficiency in other people in the house. It is not yet known how this impacts the way the disease is spread, but it is suspected that similar micro biomes and deficiencies in certain areas can cause some people to be predisposed, or more likely to develop the disease. This is about all they know so far, but I thought it might be interesting to start off with a little development in the study of the disease.
And one more thing… I know it seems stupid to care that a celebrity suffers from a disease, when there are over 300,000 people who are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually in the U.S. Why should the suffering of a celebrity matter more than the suffering of all of the other people?! It doesn’t, at all! But if you ask me, we should all be grateful for our celebrity disease ambassadors. A hugely popular celebrity has the ability to increase awareness for the disease, raise way more money for research, and generate attention on a disease that needs it. Look what Selena Gomez has done for Lupus. It might be annoying that everyone knows it as the disease that Selena or Bella or Demi has, but hey, at least they know about it at all. Trust me, celebrities who have the same disease as you don’t trivialize the disease you suffer from, or make it trendy. It makes it visible, and it makes it more likely to be funded and researched, ultimately leading to the development of new drugs, or therapies, or cures (fingers crossed). Shout out to Selena Gomez, Bella Hadid, and Demi Lovato for using their status and their platforms to raise awareness for all the people suffering from their respective illnesses.
Okay, now let’s get into the basics of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is contracted through a tick bite. Not all ticks carry the Lyme disease causing bacteria. Generally, about a week or two after the bite, 50 to 70 percent of people develop the red rash that encircles the site of the bite. This rash is sometimes referred to as the bull’s-eye rash, because obviously it looks like a bull’s-eye. The rash isn’t usually painful or itchy, just an inflammatory response by the body. Early symptoms may include fever, fatigue, neck stiffness, muscle aches, joint pain, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and headache.
Lyme disease is also fairly localized in the United States to the Northeast and other heavily wooded areas. It is more common for the disease to be contracted in this part of the country, but not impossible to contract elsewhere. Precautions should be taken when exposure to ticks is more likely, especially in the Northeast. Some things you can do to minimize your risk of exposure to ticks, and therefore Lyme disease, are to wear pants and long sleeves, to reduce the area of exposed skin where a tick may be able to attach, or using insect repellent to discourage ticks from wanting to be near you.
Lyme disease can be tricky to diagnose, and can take years to diagnose after symptoms begin. Lyme disease’s symptoms are very similar to symptoms of many other diseases. It can often seem to mimic other diseases, especially other chronic conditions such as autoimmune diseases. Every patient’s experience is different, and not all symptoms are necessarily present for every patient. Most often, it is a combination of symptoms, but not all of them.
Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can occur months after the tick bite. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Because Lyme disease is a chronic condition, symptoms may come and go, and rotate.
Symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Short-term memory issues (also sometimes referred to as brain fog)
- Nerve involvement, which can involve shooting pains, numbness or tingling, or nerve pain.
- Inflammation all over the body can occur, most commonly in the joints, but also in other areas such as the spinal cord or brain.
- Dizziness or shortness of breath.
- Cardiac involvement- usually in the form of arrhythmias (palpitations or irregular heart beats.)
- Neck stiffness.
- Sever headaches.
- Muscle pain, joint pain, connective tissue pain, and bone pain.
- Arthritis, particularly in large joints such as knees.
- Palsy’s, or paralysis, particularly in the face.
- Sometimes rashes may develop, not specific to the area of the tick bite.
Lyme disease is diagnosed using a two-step process. Both steps are done using a blood sample, and can be drawn for at the same time. Both steps are recommended to be sure of the diagnosis and to prevent misdiagnosis and improper or unnecessary treatments.
Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, or chronic Lyme, can last anywhere from six months to ongoing. Those suffering the effects of Lyme disease may become temporarily or permanently unable to work, depending on the damage to body. Many people improve over time. There are also many symptom specific treatments to ease the pain or suffering experienced by the patient. Antibiotic treatment when the infection is contracted has a high rate of success. Common antibiotics are used to treat the infection that results from the bite, and is prescribed for a couple weeks or until it clears up.
Treatments for the symptoms of Lyme disease can significantly reduce the effects of the disease on the body. For many people, treatment allows them to manage and control symptoms so they are able to lead normal lives. It is also believed that over time, patients generally improve, although some cases may remain active and acute for many years.
And here’s where custom awareness ribbons come in! You know I have to make my pitch about the benefits of making your own awareness ribbon to support a loved one currently suffering from a serious illness, or for yourself. There is something both empowering and quietly, but powerfully, supportive about a custom awareness ribbon with your name or message engraved across it. It allows those who wear it for themselves to own their health and it can inspire them to raise awareness in their community. Wearing custom awareness ribbons for someone you care about can make them feel supported, and loved, and less alone. Awareness pins can be a symbol of power when you feel helpless to change your situation or another’s.
If you would like to order a personalized awareness ribbon for Lyme disease, visit:
Until next time, everyone! Thank you so much for reading and I hope you learned something.
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