What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is carried by ticks. It is called Borrelia and there are many different species of Borrelia that are geographically spread.

Why is it important?

It is really important to diagnose Lyme disease as it is easily treatable in the early stages. Unfortunately, often it is a difficult diagnosis to make as it presents with so many symptoms that mimic other illnesses.

Is it possible to get it in the UK?

Yes. Although it is uncommon, there are around 3000 cases diagnosed each year in England and although they are mainly in woodland areas, you can even get a tick bite in cities.

How likely is it after a tick bite?

About 10% of ticks carry Lyme disease.

How do I spot a tick, and should I remove it?

Ticks are difficult to spot and are tiny black dots. They are more common in the summer and you are more likely to see one on your skin after having been outdoors in a wooded area, but they can occur anywhere and at any time of year. In order to remove it use clean, fine-tip tweezers or a tick removal device and grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible, pulling upwards with steady even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick, which can cause it to break off and remain in the skin.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

In the early stages, you may suffer from fatigue, muscle and joint pains, headaches, fever, neck stiffness, nausea or a rash. Later you may develop inflammatory arthritis or neurological issues such as Bell’s palsy. In the later stages, you might also have word-finding difficulties and brain fog, as well as headaches, migraines and heart problems. You are likely to feel very tired and you may have problems regulating your balance or blood pressure. You may have problems with vision and hearing and it may even affect your mood.

How do I test for it?

It is tested through your blood and the initial test is an ELISA, which should only be done by a reputable laboratory through Sloane Street Surgery or with your local GP. It can take a few days or possibly a week to come back and if the test is uncertain or positive, your blood will then be sent to a national reference laboratory for further ImmunoBlot testing.

How reliable are the results?

Unfortunately, this test is sometimes falsely negative, and it is possible to still have Lyme disease even when you have had a normal result. For that reason, if you have any rash or other symptoms suggestive of Lyme disease, you ought to see a doctor and if you have any doubt, you should repeat the test.

If you have any concerns about Lyme disease, book an appointment with one of our Sloane Street Surgery GPs or your local GP.




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