Montclair, NJ - (July 21, 2021) – While summer typically means more time outside, the season also brings an increased threat of tick bites. These parasites can be relatively harmless, but they can also carry and spread illnesses like Lyme disease.

We spoke with Mountainside Medical Group’s Crystal Tank, M.D., and Ashany Sundaram, M.D. to learn more.

Ashany Sundaram, M.D. “Lyme disease is actually a bacterial infection, caused by two pathogens: the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and, less often, Borrelia mayonii,” Dr. Sundaram said. “Animals and people get Lyme disease when an infected deer tick or blacklegged tick bites them. Spring and summer are the likeliest times to encounter infected ticks. Most carriers are not full-grown ticks but immature nymphs, which are less than 2 mm long, making them hard to spot. ”

“After spending time outdoors, check all over for ticks,” Dr. Sundaram said. “You may find them attached anywhere on the body, so take your time and check hard-to-see areas, such as your scalp, armpits and groin. Removing ticks as soon as possible is key as infected ticks need to be attached for more than a day to transmit the infection.”

If you find a tick on your body and believe you may have contracted Lyme disease, your doctor can run tests to confirm a diagnosis. 

Crystal Tank, M.D., “Most Lyme disease tests are designed to detect antibodies produced by the body’s immune system in response to the infection,” Dr. Tank said. “Confirming a diagnosis requires two-step lab testing. However, if the results of the first test are negative, the patient will not need the second test. Antibodies may take a few weeks to develop after exposure, so it is important to check in with a doctor to determine if, and when, Lyme disease testing is necessary.”

Lyme disease can present itself in many ways. Based on the timeline of infection some individuals experience intense illness while others experience mild symptoms.

“How you feel with Lyme disease can depend on how long you have had it,” Dr. Tank said. “In the early stage, the first 3 to 30 days or so, it is most common to feel joint pain, fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes with fatigue. Approximately 70% of infected persons develop a distinctive ‘bull’s eye’ rash. In the later stages of the disease, without treatment, severe headaches, nerve pain, heart palpitations and joint swelling are common. It’s even possible to develop what is known as Bell’s palsy, or facial paralysis involving facial droop on one or both sides of the face.”

Time is an important factor when dealing with a tick bite. Speak with a doctor immediately if you start experiencing symptoms after removing a tick.

“Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease infection,” Dr. Sundaram said. “Patients typically take doxycycline for 10 days to two weeks, or amoxicillin and cefuroxime for two weeks. There is also a one-dose preventive treatment which is most effective if started within 72-hours of a known tick bite.”

If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to include the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache or neck stiffness
  • Rashes on other areas of the body
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees
  • Loss of muscle tone or “drooping” on one or both sides of the face.
  • Heart palpitation or an irregular heartbeat
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Ticks are plentiful, especially outdoors in wooded areas, but there are some protective measures you can take to reduce your risk of a tick bite.

“The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to cover up your exposed skin in wooded areas. Connecticut and parts of New Jersey and New York have high rates of ticks carrying Lyme disease,” Dr. Tank said. “Use a bug repellant that carries at least 20% of DEET chemical. Remove a tick with tweezers so that the whole tick is removed from the skin. Make sure to speak with a doctor if you have tick bites, and always check your entire body for ticks after potential exposure.”

Although Lyme disease can turn into a very serious illness, treatment can be effective in most cases.

“About 90% of people are cured of Lyme disease with treatment. In some cases, a patient may need extended IV antibiotic therapy,” Dr. Sundaram said. “Ten percent of people do not respond to treatment and develop chronic Lyme disease. There is currently no cure for chronic Lyme disease. People with this condition typically get better over several months with a doctor-curated treatment plan to help manage the symptoms.”

Speak with your doctor right away if you begin experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease. Visit www.mountainsidemedicalgroup.com or call 866-999-5162 to find a doctor near you. Virtual visits are available.

 

About Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Group

The Mountainside Medical Group is a network of physicians specializing in internal medicine, family medicine, OB/GYN, endocrinology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, and plastic surgery created by Mountainside Medical Center, now part of Hackensack Meridian Health. We believe people who establish a personal relationship with their doctors experience better health and quality of life. Start well and stay well with Mountainside Medical Group. Offices are located in Montclair, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Glen Ridge, Nutley, Union, Verona, West Caldwell, and Woodland Park. For more information, visit: www.mountainsidemedicalgroup.com

About Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center

Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center has been serving Montclair and its surrounding New Jersey communities since 1891. The hospital provides patients access to innovative and effective treatment in specialized centers within the hospital focused on radiology, women’s health, oncology, surgery, bariatrics, neurosciences, stroke, and cardiovascular services. Mountainside is designated as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and The NJ State Department of Health and Senior Services and is one of only a few community hospitals licensed by the State to perform emergency cardiac angioplasty and emergency neuroendovascular procedures. To learn more about Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center visit www.mountainsidehosp.com.

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