What should you know as a patient?
Many victims of tick-borne diseases never recall being bitten! Ticks secrete an anesthetic-like substance in their saliva that numbs the skin, so that you may not feel the bite. Ticks that cause Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever in Colorado and other western states often feed at night while their victim sleeps. Because they feed quickly and then retreat (much like a bed-bug), people may not even know they have been bitten. The size of some ticks that can transmit disease are as small as a poppy seed, or the period at the end of this sentence, and can be easily missed even with frequent tick checks. Because early presentation of some diseases may be missed, it is important that you share any past exposures to ticks and tick habitats with your doctor.
Prevention is key to avoiding tick-borne diseases, but even if all prevention measures are taken, you may still be exposed to a tick bite. Awareness is critical in recognizing symptoms of tick-borne disease.
Educating yourself about tick-borne diseases will help you effectively advocate for yourself or your loved ones. This is especially important in Colorado where doctors may not be experienced with some of the diseases you may encounter.
Ticks are capable of transmitting more than one infection in a single bite! Persistent symptoms after treatment for an identified or suspected disease may be due to additional unrecognized infection(s) that may require extended or alternative treatment.
Treatment recommendations vary by infection and decisions regarding your course of care are best based on your individual presentation and response to treatment. These decisions should be made between you and your provider. The only guidelines currently published by the National Guidelines Clearinghouse (NGC) in regard to Lyme treatment are published by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS). Stay alert to your symptoms and write them down. Many tick-borne diseases can initially present as vague flu-like illness. Awareness of the varied symptoms and manifestations of tick-borne diseases can aid you in your consultation with your medical care provider in both diagnosis and treatment.
If you are not receiving adequate care from your medical care provider and you suspect a tick-borne infection, you should seek consult from a physician trained in diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases. Both Lyme Disease Association, Inc. and ILADS have a physician referral system that can assist in locating a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) experienced in the many presentations of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. It is rare to find an LLMD that works with insurance companies, and wait times for consult with one of these medical care providers is often lengthy. The earlier a tick-borne disease is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for the patient.
Colorado is in desperate need of more medical care providers, especially ER and Primary Care Physicians, trained in the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases!
It is important to find a doctor willing to participate in a partnership with you in the treatment of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and that you be proactive about your health by being an informed patient.