What is the common link in the cases of a wheelchair-confined man in his late thirties, a woman suffering from Bellís Palsy, and a middle-aged man with sudden onset double vision? Turns out itís Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease can cause all of the above and worse symptoms, it is hard to diagnose, and outbreaks are on the rise. Thatís why when I discovered a deer tick embedded in my side and was unable to remove itís head, I sought medical help. This is what happened.
I had just returned from walking my dog on a wooded trail that ran next to a river (a very pleasant place for me, my dog and for deer ticks too!). I was standing at the kitchen sink starting to do some dishes and I became aware of a sore feeling on my side. I pulled up the hem of my shirt and was disgusted to see a small tick embedded in my flesh. Naturally I yanked it out, but with my fingers - that was a mistake. You should use tweezers for this so that you get the entire tick. Also, the literature states not to use petroleum jelly, nail polish remover or a lighter (can you imagine?), as this could cause the tick to regurgitate its stomach contents into you! Yuck!
So, I didnít get the tickís head out. Disgusted still, I took the body of the tick and went to the hospital - I didnít want to get Lyme Disease, I knew antibiotics could prevent it and I knew my doctor was not in on a Friday afternoon. (An ER visit wasnít necessary, but I didnít know that at the time.)
I was treated by a Physicianís Assistant who was gentle and efficiently removed the tick head. However when she glanced quickly at the tick body Iíd brought she told me in no uncertain terms, ďThatís not a deer tick, thatís a dog tick.Ē She said that a deer tick is the size of a small dot about a 32nd to a 16th of an inch.
I felt embarrassed, but because she was a Physicianís Assistant, I trusted her knowledge, at least until I went home and googled deer ticks. On the internet I found pictures that looked exactly like my little buddy. I thought about my reaction to the Physicianís Assistant and considered how Paulís encouraging words to Timothy could apply in my situation. Paul wrote, ďDonít let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example...Ē We should always respect others, but shouldnít doubt what we know just because we donít hold the same degree/position.
On the internet, I read that the adult female deer tick is just about 1/8th of an inch long (much bigger than many believe). The male is slightly smaller and the immature forms are much smaller. The adult female deer tick has a reddish hind body and black dorsal markings. The adult male is more solidly colored dark brown. By comparison, dog ticks are brown with silvery-whitish markings on their backs and measure about 3/16ths of an inch long.
Concerning Lyme Disease I read that it was first discovered in 1975 near Old Lyme Connecticut. It showed up as suspiciously numerous occurrences of juvenile arthritis. The causative agent is a spirochete (helix-shaped bacteria) which is carried by a black-legged tick - the deer tick. Not all deer ticks carry Lyme Disease and an infected tick must remain attached for at least twenty-four hours in order to infect its host.
There are increased outbreaks when winters are warm or when there has been a good crop of acorns (which deer and mice eat - deer and mice being the carriers of the spirochete which the tick ingests when it bites them). States with the highest outbreaks of Lyme Disease are New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Maryland, but the disease has been found in almost every state in the U.S. and in several foreign countries.
The first sign of infection is usually an expanding skin rash often looking like a bullís eye. Early diagnosis is critical because left untreated the disease can lead to rheumatic, neurologic, and/or cardiac damage. This damage, though not often fatal, can be permanent. But, itís not easy to diagnose Lyme Disease especially if you donít realize youíve had a deer tick attached to you. Donít be fooled, get to know your woodland buddies.
Bible Reference: 1 Timothy 4:12 (New International translation)
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