Lyme disease is a bacterial illness contracted from tick bites. It is most prevalent in the Northeast, which accounts for over half of all cases in the U.S. The infection can affect individuals of all ages and, if left untreated, may cause a variety of physical and neurological abnormalities.

Lyme disease is all too often misdiagnosed, so it’s crucial to receive a thorough medical examination if you begin exhibiting symptoms. Early treatment is usually curable, but the severity of the infection tends to worsen over time and, in rare cases, can even prove fatal. The ability to understand and recognize Lyme disease is the most effective way of ensuring that it does not develop into a serious illness.

Lyme disease was first discovered when an unusual number of children in the eponymous Connecticut town were displaying symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors learned that most of the affected children lived near wooded areas known to house large concentrations of ticks. Investigators also found that the disease was most frequently contracted during the summer tick season. It was discovered that black legged ticks contract Lyme disease from deer and then transmit it to humans as they attach and feed on a host. People often come in contact with these parasites while walking through patches of tall grass or wooded areas.

Taking proper precautions to avoid direct contact with ticks is imperative to preventing Lyme disease, particularly during warm summer months when tick activity reaches its height. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants along with certain insect repellents is a great way to ward off infected ticks. When you leave an area where there could be ticks, be sure to perform a thorough search for parasites that could be attached to your body. If you have been bitten, remove the tick immediately to avoid the spread of infection.

During the early stages of Lyme disease, sufferers can experience flu-like symptoms including headaches, stiff joints, muscle aches and fatigue. A telltale expanding skin rash will also develop around the site of the tick bite in about 90 percent of cases. If left untreated, the disease can develop and potentially spread to the liver, heart and joints, causing serious medical complications. Lyme disease sufferers in stage two may experience paralysis in the facial muscles, joint and muscle pain, and heart palpitations. If the disease develops further, more acute muscle and joint pain, abnormal muscle movement, numbness and even speech problems may begin to appear. It’s vital to note that these symptoms can occur weeks, months or even years after the initial tick bite.

Early detection is critical to the successful treatment of Lyme disease. If you’ve received a tick bite, be sure to monitor yourself closely for symptoms over the following 30 days. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics, but the chance of a cure decreases the longer treatment is delayed. The American Lyme Disease Foundation recommends treating the infection with oral antibiotics such as Doxycycline. However, if neurological or severe cardiac abnormalities arise, doctors will advise receiving immediate intravenous treatment.