May is Lyme Disease Awareness month. Lyme Disease is a tick-borne illness that more than 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with each year. The northeastern United States is the region where cases most prominently occur. Beyond that, New York State also had the third highest number of confirmed cases of the 50 states in 2016. This area has a large deer population causing many people to get ticks without knowing about Lyme Disease or its side effects.
Lyme Disease manifests differently in each individual case. Depending on the case it can attack the nervous system, skin, joints, and even heart. In addition to the physical symptoms of Lyme Disease there are also many cases where it causes psychiatric reactions and mental health issues. People suffering from Lyme Disease have developed anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia. Many people with Lyme disease have a completely different set of symptoms than another. For many people when the tick is found within thirty six hours of latching and the person seeks medical care they are able to get antibiotics to diminish their symptoms or even stop them completely before they begin. For others, antibiotics are ineffective or given too late. These people suffer from different ailments on a case by case basis and can have major complications lasting the rest of their lives.
Oftentimes people who haven’t been affected or had somebody close to them affected by Lyme Disease don’t understand the severity of the disease. This causes many people to ignore the symptoms and not do regular tick checks when coming inside from outdoor activity. Hundreds of thousands of people every year are affected by this disease because it is highly misunderstood. Due to its many different manifestations, both physical and mental, it is hard to tell when symptoms are connected to Lyme.
Especially in this area where there is a high deer population and high Lyme Disease rates, the best way to prevent it is to do regular tick checks and seek medical care immediately if you find a tick latched to you.
For more information on symptoms, treatment, tick removal and more visit the CDC’s Lyme Disease page at https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html
Stay safe and check for ticks!
Alexis Lyga is a student at Herkimer College. This article was written as part of an Honors Program project.