May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, a time to learn about this increasingly-common, potentially life-threatening disease and how you can get it just by stepping outside your home.
More than 300,000 people in the United States contract Lyme disease annually, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with 96 percent of cases coming from the Northeast states in the country.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which harbors itself in Deer ticks. Because of this, Lyme disease is known as a tick-borne disease and transmits into a human through the bite of an infected tick. Anyone is susceptible to Lyme disease; ticks live anywhere there is grass or heavily wooded areas.
Since a tick feeds on blood, these little creatures favor places where the grass is taller so they can gain the ability to jump on animals as their bodies pass through the vegetation.
While not all ticks transmit Lyme disease, it is important to take the appropriate precautions when being active outdoors in regions of the country where Lyme disease is prevalent.
According to the Mayo Clinic, detection of Lyme disease can be difficult, and timely detection and treatment are key to minimizing symptoms and damage to organs in the body.
Singer Thalia’s battle with Lyme disease
Anyone can contract Lyme disease, as famous songstress Thalia can attest. The Spanish-language singer and Latina television star came down with the disease in 2008, indicating in her memoir “Growing Stronger” that after she gave birth to her daughter she began to feel ill.
Doctors attributed Thalia’s symptoms with those of post-partum depression, but the actress wasn’t convinced that was the cause of her symptoms. Despite her assertions that more was going on with her body than post-partum depression, doctors repeatedly dismissed her statements.
“They didnt care what I said, she wrote in the memoir. It was as if I was talking to a wall. I continued to feel like I had been run over by a truck that had dragged me for a thousand miles, along with a steamroller that had crushed every last bone in my body. I literally thought I was dying.
Thalia’s symptoms were typical of Lyme disease; individuals with the condition often experience flu-like symptoms during the early stages, discomfort that progresses into extreme joint pain and numbness or weakness of the muscles. Other indications of the infection include:
- Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat. Heart problems rarely last more than a few days or weeks.
- Eye inflammation.
- Liver inflammation (hepatitis).
- Severe fatigue.
Though a “bull’s eye” rash is considered a telltale sign of Lyme disease, not everyone develops this skin reaction to a tick bite.
“I would sweat profusely, soaking my pajamas, the sheets and even the mattress; everything hurt, even my hair, which, by the way, started to fall out,” Thalia recollected. “At times it felt as if my head were going to burst, as if there were lead inside of it; my eyes ached in their sockets .the hypersensitivity of my skin was so severe that sometimes I couldnt even handle the bed sheets.
Because it took doctors a while to formally diagnose the Latina celebrity with Lyme disease, it has take two years of aggressive treatment to see Thalia on the road to recovery. Even with treatment, however, Thalia, like all those who have contracted Lyme disease, will have the disease for the rest of her life.
Though antibiotics and treatment can eliminate symptoms, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease remains in the body. Many individuals experience flare-ups throughout their lives, though severity and frequency vary.