Thursday, July 30, 2009

lyme frustration

I posted about this in passing, but was reminded about it by this NYTimes post.

Why the hell doesn't Lyme disease get any respect? Are there actually doctors out there who don't think it exists? Why is the medical establishment so resistant to diagnosing it? In my experience, you'll get better treatment from a vet.

I know, I know, the test for it is dodgy and the symptoms aren't very exotic and it can look like a million other diseases. But it's very simple. Do you work outside on the east coast? Are you regularly in contact with grass/shrubbery/second growth areas? Then you're at risk.

My doctor had a laughably bad understanding of the disease (I panicked once when I found an embedded tick) so I thought I'd post this simple list:

1. You may or may not have a bulls-eye rash.
2. Ticks don't transmit the disease until they've been feeding for a while, so if you find one embedded and remove it later (i.e. in the shower once you get home), you're ok.
3. Ticks like warm, dark, um... furry places. Also, ticks can be really, really small. So they may not be spotted so easily.
4. Lyme disease gets harder to treat the longer you wait. Unfortunately, because the test is prone to false positives/negatives and it often seems to be the last thing a doctor will think of when you present with joint pain/neurological symptoms, you can go for years before diagnosis.

Also, lyme disease is only one of a whole bunch of diseases transmitted by ticks. The CDC sez babesiosis, crimean-congo hemorrhagic fever, southern tick-associated rash illness, tick-borne relapsing fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever can also be spread by the buggers.

This is why I always wear pants and light-colored in the field...and take a very thorough shower afterward.


ScienceWoman said...

Yes, there are plenty of doctors who do not believe in chronic lyme disease. I don't know of any doctors who disagree that there is acute lyme disease.

If you find an embedded tick, you can get your doc to prescribe you a prophylactic dose of antibiotics that should reduce the risk of getting any tick-borne disease from that bite. This happened to me recently when I found a tick biting on me more than 24 hours after I was last in the woods.

Marciepooh said...

You remember to tuck your pants into your socks too, right? Not only does it help foil ticks and chiggers but it's great fashion statement.