Thursday, July 28, 2016

Suck me, tick!

I really do think about posts to write all the time, but No, not really. No excuses. Eventually I will get back to regularly posting - that's how it seems to go. Ebbs and flows, after all.

So, Lyme disease. Just one of an ever-expanding cadre of tick-borne illnesses. As a life-long hiker, runner, and then trail runner - I have had remarkably little personal experience with ticks... *dramatic pause* UNTIL LAST YEAR!

Starting with our trip to upstate NY last June, I've now had a considerable amount of experience with ticks and their awful bacterial infections. First, my dad and brother contracted Lyme disease. They were lucky in that they presented the classic "bulls-eye" rash which, coupled with their overall feeling of unhealth, lead to an early diagnosis. Then, about a month ago now, Devyn found a tick crawling on her thigh while we were sitting on the porch. Two days later, a pimple appeared on the back of her leg, which turned into a large, black, swollen, painful open sore. A day or so after that, she began feeling lethargic, feverish, had a weird pressure in her head, and eventually developed a spreading rash over her extremities that moved onto her abdomen. The fever did not abate when she started Keflex for her was only until she started doxycycline that her symptoms began to improved within the first 24 hours.

THEN, about a week ago, I found a tick latched onto my calf after a run. I removed it and thought I was in the clear until this past Tuesday when I realized that I was sick - Neck stiffness, interocular pressure, nausea, body aches. I started doxycycline about 36 hours ago and the symptoms are starting to go away.

So, here's a great article that sums up everything I've learned about tick-borne illnesses. I promise you, a lot of what is talked about in this article will be new information.

Here some takeaways, both from the article and from the other reading I've done and conversations I've had with medical professionals over the past year.


1.) Ticks can transmit disease in about 10-15 minutes of attachment. Not 24 or 48 hours I had always been told - They had to engorge and then de-gorge in order to spit their bacteria into you.

2.) Remove a tick with tweezers or a pair of credit cards. Don't burn them or cover them with Vaseline or any of the other home-remedies.

3.) Tick-borne diseases are on the rise. This is due both to better understanding of the diseases and hence more diagnosed cases, but some research suggests that it's also due to the spread of the various strains of the bacteria across the country, like the type that causes Lyme.

4.) Some types of the illnesses are treatable. Generally, this treatment is always doxycycline (or perhaps doxy with another antibiotic as well). The course of treatment needs to be AT LEAST two weeks if not longer. I will also mention that my dad, for instance, had his Lyme treatment extended because the first provider he saw correctly diagnosed the Lyme, but then put him on the incorrect antibiotic.

5.) The symptoms of the different tick-borne diseases are varied, but after talking to at least dozen people who have had Lyme - The one thing that seems consistent is that everyone felt sick, but felt weird, too. This is really not science-y of me to say, but I did think it was interesting that everyone said that before they finally went to the doctor, they knew the were sick, but it felt different than any other sickness they had experienced previously. Common complaints from everyone were headache, coupled with neck/shoulder stiffness, and a feeling of pressure in the eyeballs.

6.) Many doctors are not very experienced with tick-borne illnesses. There is not a significant amount of time spent in medical school discussing this topic. Devyn graduated from NP school at fuckin' Yale, in the forested and tick-filled Northeast, and there was no talk about Lyme disease, how to differentially diagnose it, or how to treat it. If you think you might have been bitten by a tick, you should be well-informed before conferring with your healthcare provider...unfortunately, there still isn't a highly-accurate standard test for a patient that may have early-stage Lyme or other tick-disease. Here's a link to some of the tests that can be performed, but from what I've read, it's still pretty tough to exactly diagnose a tick-borne illness in the first stage (a month or two sometimes).

Ok, that's all I've got to say on this right now. I felt compelled to write this because I've really been surprised at how different some of the information is online regarding ticks and that many articles still include the older information on how to deal with them. Also, I've been surprised how little experience most health care providers have with tick-borne illnesses. More so than if you have the common flu, you really need to be your own advocate if you're concerned that you may contracted a tick-borne illness.

Ok. That's it. Enough enough. Let me know if any of this sounds unreasonable or woefully mis-informed.

Bridger Ridge Run next month. Really pumped!


josh z. said...

godforsaken fuckin ticks. this problem will continue to grow (particularly in the heavily human and tree populated NE) as long as uncle sam, or heaven forbid private citizens, don't pony up and tackle invasive understory plants that provide lush and protected habitat (so dense predators can't enter) for a massive mice population that ticks can have a feeding frenzy on. apologies for the run-on sentence there and wishing you and D a solid recovery.

Patrick Thurber said...

Thanks, bruh! That's an interesting take on the you're saying that because the mouse population is able to grow unchecked that ticks, too, are seeing an explosion in their numbers? I'd believe it...I don't mean to sound like an old man, but when I was a kid, we used to dive into leaf piles, lay in the grass, etc. and I can't remember a single time that any kid in the neighborhood found a tick on them. Now, in the past couple of years, it seems like everyone I know has personally had some kind of experience with them. It's really bizarre.

Andrew Adair said...

I don't know if this is true because there is zero accountability on the internet these days blah blah but I've heard mild winter temperatures and large amounts of snow (which apparently preserve eggs or something?) are preventing the tick population from dipping, which keeps the overall numbers really high when spring rolls back around. In other words, if there's a sudden influx of a previously rare-ish natural occurrence it can be traced to global warming. File that one under DUH.

Patrick Thurber said...

We're all doomed.

Also, this blog is absolutely part of the zero accountability, anecdotal tidal wave of bullshit flattening us and then pulling our bodies out into the ocean of Stupid.

"Come with me/And you'll be/in a world of pure imagination"