Beyond Lyme Disease: 5 Other Tick-Borne Illnesses

When I hear the words “Lyme disease,” I shudder. I’ve met people whose lives were completely upended by the bite of a tiny tick. They went from being happy and healthy to fatigued, forgetful, and frustrated due to the tick-borne illness. And it took years for them to discover the root cause of their symptoms. Some of them don’t even remember being bitten by a tick.

Lyme disease, which is transmitted by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also called a deer tick), can cause physiological symptoms, including fever, headache, breathing problems, and joint pain. However, many people don’t realize that it is also associated with cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as memory problems, brain fog, trouble concentrating, changes in personality, anxiety and depression, panic attacks, hallucinations, delusions, sleep issues, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and more.

Although Lyme disease has become more well-known due to media coverage, it isn’t the only illness associated with tick bites. Several other tick-borne diseases can also cause lasting consequences. Here are 5 tick-borne illnesses you need to know about.

Although Lyme disease has become more well-known due to media coverage, it isn’t the only illness associated with tick bites. Several other tick-borne diseases can also cause lasting consequences. Click To Tweet

5 TICK-BORNE ILLNESSES THAT AREN’T LYME DISEASE

  1. Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Transmitted by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, or the brown dog tick, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a bacterial infection that is known for causing fever, headache, vomiting, rash, and more. If not treated quickly with antibiotics, it can cause inflammation of the brain, which is associated with confusion or delirium. In some cases, when left untreated, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can cause serious illness or even death.
  2. Anaplasmosis: Although it is rarer than Lyme disease, anaplasmosis is transmitted by the same type of ticks that transmit Lyme disease. It is most often contracted during the spring or summer and typically causes fever, chills, muscle aches, and headache.
  3. Ehrlichiosis: Transmitted by the lone star tick, which is found primarily in the southeastern and south-central United States, ehrlichiosis can cause confusion in addition to physiological symptoms. If treatment is delayed, it can lead to brain inflammation, among other issues.
  4. Powassan Virus: Relatively rare, Powassan virus is transmitted by the blacklegged tick and the groundhog tick. Severe cases can cause confusion, trouble speaking, loss of coordination, and encephalitis. Lasting consequences following severe illness include memory problems.
  5. Babesiosis: Spread by blacklegged ticks, this illness occurs when microscopic parasites infect red blood cells. In some people, infection causes no symptoms. In others, it causes flu-like symptoms or a certain type of anemia.

HOW TO PREVENT TICK BITES

Spending time in nature is so important for our physical and mental health, but it can increase your risk for tick bites. Ticks play an important role in nature and are a source of food for lizards, birds, and many other creatures. We can’t get rid of ticks, so we have to learn to outsmart them. Here are some tips to help you avoid tick bites.

  • Be aware of natural tick habitats. Ticks typically live in wooded areas, grassy environments, or brush-filled spots. They can be found on hiking trails, beaches, campgrounds, gardens, and in neighborhoods. The CDC provides a good roundup of regions where ticks live. On a more local basis, get to know your state and community guidelines regarding tick habitats. It’s important to know if your favorite hiking spot or dog-walking route is a home for ticks that spread disease.
  • Don’t wander off trails. If you’re hiking or walking in a wooded area, stick to the middle of the trail. Avoid veering off the trail into high grass or brushy areas.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear light-colored clothing and tuck your pants into your socks. Lighter clothing gives you a better chance of spotting ticks.
  • Try natural tick repellants. Be sure to avoid any tick repellants that contain toxins, such as DEET, that can be harmful to your health. A few natural alternatives include cedar oil spray, or make your own repellant by mixing water with eucalyptus oil or apple cider vinegar. Just mix in a spray bottle and spray on clothing before heading outdoors.
  • Check your clothes and body for ticks. After visiting an area where ticks may live, do a thorough examination of your clothing and body. Remove any ticks you find.
  • Care for clothes. To kill ticks, throw your clothes in the dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes (more if clothes are damp). If clothes need to be washed, use hot water to kill ticks.

 

WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP

If you’re struggling with lingering symptoms that you suspect may be due to a tick bite, seek treatment from an integrative medicine (also called functional medicine) provider. Seeing a physician who is literate in tick-borne illnesses is an important step in getting an accurate diagnosis and a targeted treatment plan to put you back on the road to good health.

To receive 8% off a FULL or PARTIAL evaluation with Amen Clinics, use code TASCAN8. To book directly or for more information, please call Amen Clinics at 888-288-9834. 

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