Guidance to help spot Lyme disease more quickly has been issued by NICE. The guideline lists symptoms to look out for, tests to help confirm a diagnosis and what treatments to use.
The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. Ticks are mainly found in grassy and wooded areas, including urban gardens and parks: particularly high-risk areas are the south of England and Scottish Highlands but infection can occur in many areas.
Most tick bites do not transmit Lyme disease and prompt removal of the tick reduces the risk of transmission. Covering exposed skin and using insect repellents that protect against ticks can reduce the risk of being bitten.
People with Lyme disease often display erythema migrans, a red rash that increases in size and may sometimes have a central clearing. It is not usually itchy, hot or painful, and usually becomes visible from 1 to 4 weeks after a tick bite and lasts for several weeks.
Lyme disease symptoms are common with those of other conditions and so, NICE says, lab tests can be useful to help confirm a diagnosis. Typical symptoms can also include combinations of headache, fever, joint pain or fatigue as well as others that are more specific such as problems with nerves or joints.
Clinicians that strongly suspect someone has Lyme disease should start them on an antibiotic treatment while waiting for test results. The disease is usually treated with doxycycline or amoxicillin depending on the age of the patient and the symptoms. Specialist referral may be required.