Lyme disease often sparks symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, fever, and flu-like effects. But there are more severe cases of Lyme disease, known as Lyme carditis, that can cause debilitating, even life-threatening, symptoms. In rare cases, the brain, lungs, and heart can be impacted. And that’s what we want to tackle here. What is Lyme carditis? Let’s discuss.
What Is Lyme Carditis?
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through infected ticks. Carditis is inflammation of the heart. Combine the two, and you have bacteria that cause Lyme disease attacking the heart tissue. If a person has Lyme carditis, the normal movement of electrical signals can be tampered with, affecting how the heart processes work from the upper to lower chambers. The heartbeat will become irregular, causing what physicians call “heart block.”
What Are Common Symptoms of Lyme Carditis and How Is It Diagnosed?
Lyme disease often creates flu-like symptoms in the body, including:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Additional unwanted symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If you’re exhibiting any of these signs and have recently been in an area where ticks are common, contact your doctor. They will likely conduct an electrocardiogram to check your heart’s electrical signals. With those results, they will know how severe the case is and proceed accordingly. Most often, lab tests are required.
What Does Treatment Look Like?
If caught early, antibiotics can treat Lyme disease. However, if you let the infection go unchecked, you may experience more severe and long-term problems, including issues associated with your joints, nervous system, and heart. Most instances of Lyme carditis can also be reversed with antibiotics, but some severe circumstances can put you in the hospital.
Typically, the following medications can reverse the effects of Lyme carditis:
What Are Some Additional Facts to Know About Lyme Carditis?
Other things you may want to be aware of:
- Lyme carditis can lead to Lyme disease.
- Lyme carditis should be considered when young patients show severe conduction abnormalities.
- Atrial ventricular block in Lyme carditis can progress quickly and be fatal.
- Early treatment may prevent irreversible conduction disease in Lyme carditis.
- A permanent pacemaker may be required if irreversible damage to the heart muscle occurs, but antibiotic treatment should be considered first.
What Are Some Prevention Tips?
Prevention of Lyme carditis is the same as the prevention of Lyme disease. Start by decreasing your exposure to ticks. Other prevention tips include:
- Wearing long pants and shirts outside
- Keeping backyard underbrush to a minimum
- Keeping wooded areas neat, clear, and clean
- Using insect repellent
- Checking your entire body for ticks every time you come inside from outdoors
- Removing ticks with tweezers by grabbing the head or mouth and pulling gently