Lyme Disease Threat? Yes, Even in Cold Weather
Although tick bites and cases of Lyme disease are more common in the warmer months, they can still occur in autumn and even winter. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by the bite of a deer tick. These ticks can survive near-freezing temperatures, so they may still be active – and spreading disease – when the weather is cold and you are least suspecting them.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease typically include fever, fatigue, and, at times, a bullseye rash called erythema migrans. If an early infection is missed or is asymptomatic and left untreated, the disease can spread to the heart, nerves, brain, and even the joints, causing Lyme arthritis – inflammation of the joint tissue.
To avoid these problems, you should routinely check your body from head to toe when you are in areas where ticks are most common, such as wooded or tall grassy landscapes. It’s also important, in such places, to wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Early recognition and treatment are crucial to minimizing the risk of long-term degenerative changes of the joints.
“Lyme arthritis most commonly affects one joint, typically the knee, and presents as pain and swelling without any injury or trauma,” notes Shawn Potteiger, D.O., a sports medicine physician at Premier.
Itai Gans, M.D., a sports medicine surgeon at Premier, adds, “Patients experience warm, swollen joints with increased pain when the knee or joint is fully straightened or bent. Joint swelling can increase and decrease, move between different joints and become quite painful, which can limit the ability to walk, at times.”
Lyme disease is diagnosed through lab testing. If possible, it’s a good idea to save the tick for evaluation by your provider. Treatment with oral or intravenous antibiotics is successful in the majority of cases. If joint swelling progresses, orthopaedic care may be necessary to treat fluid buildup.
If you experience symptoms or find a tick on your body, contact your healthcare provider immediately. If you need orthopaedic care, Drs. Gans and Potteiger see patients at Premier offices in Collegeville, Exton and Malvern. To schedule an appointment, please call Premier at 610-644-6900. With more than 35 locations in the Greater Philadelphia region, Premier Orthopaedics provides the full spectrum of orthopaedic services.
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