Lyme Disease: A Tick-borne Bacterial Infection Believed to Afflict 300,000 People Annually

Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection believed to afflict 300,000 people annually

This bacterial infection is caused when an infected deer tick, also known as the blacklegged tick, bites you and stays attached for 36 to 48 hours. According to WebMD, if the tick is removed within 48 hours, Lyme disease infection will probably not occur.

Image of campersPeople who spend time outdoors – campers, hikers, gardeners, cyclists, and more – are at greater risk of being bitten by a tick and experiencing a tick-borne disease such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, or Alpha-gal Syndrome.

In 2003, a case of Lyme disease left multi-award winner Shania Twain unable to sing.

“I may never sing again.”

Multi-award winning singer Shania Twain faced those words over and over again as she fought to regain use of her singing voice after a 2003 diagnosis of Lyme disease.

A deer tick, or blacklegged tick, is about the size of a sesame seed.As mentioned, Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. Typical symptoms include the flu-like symptoms of fever, headache, and fatigue.

A skin rash called erythema migrans occurs in 70 to 80 percent of infected persons. The rash begins at the site of the tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days. It may feel warm to the touch, but is rarely itchy or painful, so the rash is often difficult to detect. The rash expands gradually over a period of days, reaching a diameter of up to 12 inches or more. As the rash expands, it may form a characteristic “bull’s-eye” appearance.

Days to months after a tick bite, the individual may experience severe headaches and neck stiffness, additional erythema migrans rashes on other areas of the body, facial palsy, episodes of dizziness, and shortness of breath.

Left untreated, the infection can spread to joints and cause intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones. Additional effects may include heart palpitations, an irregular heartbeat, nerve pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and problems with short-term memory.

Lyme disease symptoms can disrupt your world

During Shania’s 2003 Up! Tour, she spotted a tick as it fell off her skin. She quickly began experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease. Though she didn’t yet know she had the disease, its symptoms threatened her performances.

“I was on tour, so I almost fell off the stage every night,” Shania said in a 2017 interview with Victoria Ahearn of The Canadian Press. “I was very, very dizzy and didn’t know what was going on. It’s just one of those things you don’t suspect.”

After her subsequent diagnosis and treatment, the long-term effects of the disease resulted in dysphonia, a vocal cord disorder that left her unable to sing for an extensive period of time.

For nearly 15 years, Shania underwent extensive speech therapy and vocal training to regain her voice. Now, as she prepares for the September 29th release of her first studio album since contracting Lyme disease, she admits that, due to the disease, using her voice requires lengthy warm-ups and physical therapy that she describes as “very, very difficult.”

Lyme disease is very dangerous because you have a very short window to catch it and treat it

“[Lyme] is very dangerous because you have a very short window to catch it and then treat it and then even when you treat it, you could still very well be left with effects, which is what happened to me,” Shania said in her Canadian Press interview. “Normally it can attack your nervous system or the vital organs — heart, liver, kidneys, nervous system. It’s a debilitating disease and extremely dangerous. You can’t play around with it, so you’ve got to check yourself for ticks.”

A Lyme disease checklist

LymeDisease.org developed a Lyme disease symptom checklist to help you document your exposure to Lyme disease and common symptoms for your healthcare provider. The tool is not a self-diagnosis tool. Proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations need to be made by a physician. Some of the symptoms listed on the checklist include red expanding skin rash, severe headaches and neck stiffness, shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, and facial nerve (Bell’s) palsy.

Medical research for Lyme disease

Research groups worldwide explore causes and cures for Lyme disease. Additionally, work is being done to develop improved diagnostic test kits for this condition. PlasmaLab International in Everett, WA, provides researchers with antibody-rich plasma collected from individuals recently diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Have you recently been diagnosed with Lyme disease? Are you interested in participating in PlasmaLab’s compensated research program? Please call 425-258-3653 to learn how you can support medical research or fill out our online application. We will contact you by email within 48 business hours of receiving your application.