Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is usually contracted by a tick bite. About 20% of the ticks in the Netherlands are infected with this Borrelia bacterium. Every year more than one million people in the Netherlands are bitten by a tick. This means that in the Netherlands more than 200,000 people per year are exposed to the Borrelia bacterium. With immediate treatment with antibiotics, the majority of them heal. It is estimated that between 1,600 and 2,500 people do not cure due to late discovery or not enough treatment. They develop chronic Lyme disease.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
The symptoms of Lyme disease are divided into three stages. In the first stage, a local skin infection develops around the site of the tick bite. This is often the case but not always! Be alarmed by a red spot on the skin, combined with flu-like symptoms. If at this stage the disease is already detected, an antibiotic treatment almost always leads to a cure. Unfortunately, this is not always easy: not everyone gets a rash after a bite. In addition, the Borrelia bacterium is a so-called 'spiral-shaped bacterium'. These bacteria are very smart and therefore difficult to treat (for example, they can throw off their outer cell wall, making them no longer detectable by the immune system).
If the disease can develop into the second stage, the Borrelia bacterium settles in the bloodstream. At this stage extra symptoms can occur in addition to flu and persistent fatigue, such as loss of concentration, joint and heart disease.
In the third stage, we speak of chronic Lyme, in which the patient has long-term and varying problems with various symptoms. This is caused by the Borrelia bacteria tearing down the immune system. Often, chronic fatigue, headache, irregular body temperature and muscle and joint pain dominate at this stage. Unfortunately, there is no unambiguous treatment for these patients that guarantees a cure. Much more scientific research is still needed in this area. Since a number of years, however, there is a new treatment in Germany. This restores both the immune system and the damage caused by the disease. With this revolutionary innovative approach they achieve excellent results. Read more on the page treatment.
Unfortunately, Lyme disease often does not come alone. Ticks can also transmit many other infections (co-infections). The most common co-infections are Bartonella, Babesiosis, Ehrlichia and Rickettsia.
Bartonella, or cat scratch disease, is caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. The infection can be transmitted by a crab or bite from a cat infected with the bacteria, or by ticks that have previously been on an infected cat. In addition to cats, there are more animals that can transmit the bacteria to humans, such as rabbits, dogs and cattle. Just as with infection by the Borrelia bacterium, a red skin rash may develop on the site of the crab or the bite, and later symptoms of the disease may develop, such as fever, headache and weight loss.
The infection Babesiosis is caused by the parasite Babesia, which a tick can transmit to humans. The parasite destroys the red blood cells, causing malaria-like symptoms and anemia.
Ehrlichia is an infection caused by the small Ehrlichia bacteria, which enter the white blood cells. Ticks transfer the bacterium, but this can also be done by blood transfusion. The diagnosis of Ehrlichia is difficult and is often overlooked. Common symptoms are exhaustion, fever, muscle cramps, joint pain and upset stomach.
Rickettsia is also known as louse bite disease, and can be transmitted by lice, fleas, mites, flies and ticks. The Rickettsia bacteria can cause various diseases. In all cases, there is often a skin rash or a sore on the spot of the bite, after which various symptoms can occur.
In addition to these four most common co-infections, there are more that you can incur after a tick bite, such as Chlamydia Pneumonia, Q fever and FSME.
Would you like more information about Lyme disease and co-infections? Then go to the website of Stichting Tekenbeetziekten, where you can find detailed explanations about each subject. On the website Tekenradar.nl all reports of tick bites, erythema migrans (Red circle that can occur after the bite of an infected tick) and other forms of Lyme disease are recorded. If you want to read the story of Alicia click here.
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