A guide to Lyme disease-induced arthritis

October 5, 2015

There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Don't use nutshell descriptions as a way of diagnosing your aches and pains and talk to your doctor about potential Lyme-related causes.

A guide to Lyme disease-induced arthritis

Lyme arthritis

  • Lyme disease is now considered a trigger for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The most common tick-borne disease in the United States, Lyme disease is present in southern Ontario, northeastern Manitoba, and parts of Nova Scotia, where it is carried by the deer tick, as well as southern British Columbia, where the carrier is the western blacklegged tick.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada states that these ticks are sometimes carried to other parts of Canada by migratory birds, and that they can also be active during the winter months in regions where the wintertime temperatures hover at around 4°C.
  • It is important to bear in mind, however, that Lyme disease is not actually a very common ailment in Canada or in many other parts of the world.

Causes and symptoms

  • People become infected when bitten by ticks that carry Lyme bacteria (known as Borrellia burgdoferi).
  • Early Lyme disease symptoms include a ring-like rash at the point of initial infection and flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever, chills and headache.
  • If you are suffering the general symptoms listed above and have recently been in a Lyme hot zone, it's advisable to request a blood test that specifically looks for Lyme disease.
  • Prompt treatment with antibiotics can cure the infection. But without treatment, about 50 per cent of infected people experience intermittent arthritis in various joints.
  • The arthritis usually clears up on its own, but about ten per cent of people develop chronic inflammatory arthritis, most often in the knee.

What can be done

  • The best strategy is to avoid tick bites.
  • People who go outside in Lyme-disease areas should wear light-coloured clothes (so ticks will be visible), tuck pant cuffs into socks (to keep ticks away from the skin), use repellents containing the ingredient DEET and conduct daily tick checks to remove ticks before they can bite.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada states that treatment for those already infected with Lyme disease calls for treatments of doxycycline, ceftriaxone or amoxicillin.
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