Our grateful thanks to Lyme Disease UK for their contribution to our radio report (which you can hear again via the audio player at the bottom of this page) and to the NHS for the use of the information below.
Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia, a spirochete bacteria. It’s the most common tick-borne infectious disease in the northern hemisphere and there are multiple strains of the bacteria.
Lyme disease is endemic in many parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in woodland or heath-land areas but disease carrying ticks can also be found in cities and gardens.
Symptoms of Lyme disease. A circular or oval shape rash around a tick bite can be an early symptom of Lyme disease in some people but not always.
The rash can appear up to 3 months after being bitten by an infected tick, but usually appears within 1 to 4 weeks. It can last for several weeks. As we heard it can resemble a bullseye.
The rash can have a darker or lighter area in the centre and might gradually spread. It's not usually hot or itchy.
The rash may be flat, or slightly raised, and look pink, red, or purple when it appears on white skin. It can be harder to see the rash on brown and black skin and it may look like a bruise.
Some people also get flu-like symptoms a few days or weeks after they were bitten by an infected tick, such as:
Some people with Lyme disease develop more severe symptoms months or years later. This is more likely if treatment is delayed.
These more severe symptoms may include:
Not all ticks in England carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. But it's still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible, just in case.
Ticks that may cause Lyme disease are found all over the UK, but high-risk places include grassy and wooded areas in southern and northern England and the Scottish Highlands.
To remove a tick safely
To avoid tick bites
See a GP if you've been bitten by a tick or visited an area in the past 3 months where infected ticks could be and you have:
Tell them if you have recently been in forests or grassy areas.
If a GP thinks you might have Lyme disease, they'll prescribe a course of antibiotics.
The antibiotics you're given will depend on your symptoms, but you may need to take them for up to 28 days. It's important to finish the course, even if you start to feel better.
Some people with severe symptoms will be referred to a specialist in hospital so antibiotics can be given directly into a vein.
Most people with Lyme disease get better after antibiotic treatment. This can take months for some people, but the symptoms should improve over time.
People with symptoms of Lyme disease that last a long time after treatment may be referred to a specialist in hospital for advice and more blood tests.
Ongoing symptoms of Lyme disease. A few people who are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease continue to have symptoms, like tiredness, aches and loss of energy, that can last for years. These symptoms are often compared to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It's not clear why this happens to some people and not others. This means there's also no agreed treatment.
Listen to this weeks radio report
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