Tick-Borne Diseases: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson goes over some aspects of four different tick-borne diseases. You'll get to appreciate the similarities and differences in their signs, symptoms and treatments as a result.

Tick-Borne Diseases

Tick-borne diseases are transmitted by, no surprise here, ticks. They are small, brownish insects that cling to you as you brush up against a plant they are on. They find a nice spot on your body, drink your blood and can transmit bacteria, viruses, and parasites that result in one disease or another.

There are a lot of tick-borne diseases and many signs and symptoms overlap, like fever. So this lesson is going to focus on just a few of the diseases and their signs, symptoms, and treatments to give you a good idea of what a person with a tick-borne disease might experience.

Lyme Disease & RMSF

One of the worst forms of tick-borne disease is Lyme disease. This is caused by a bacterium. If left untreated, a person with Lyme disease will experience the following signs and symptoms in the early stages of the disease:

  • Fever, chills, joint aches, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Erythema migrans, a specific kind of rash (which is usually not itchy). Erythema refers to redness of the skin and migrans refers to the fact that it appears to 'migrate'. This rash expands from the site of the bite and can then morph into a bull's eye appearance.

The bulls eye rash classically present in Lyme disease.

Many days to months later, a person with Lyme disease may have:

  • Facial palsy, which causes a droopy appearance to the face
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle and nerve pain
  • Dizziness and memory problems

Treatment for Lyme disease generally involves antibiotics, drugs that target bacteria.

This is the same treatment for Rocky mountain spotted fever, RMSF. Signs and symptoms of RMSF include any combination of:

  • Fever and headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal and muscle pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Red eyes
  • A non-itchy rash that classically begins as pink, flat spots on the person's extremities, like their wrist, ankles, and forearms. This can then spread to the trunk and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

The rash seen in RMSF.

Babesiosis & CTF

Antibiotics are used in conjunction with anti-protozoal medications to treat people with babesiosis, a disease caused by protozoan parasites. Many people infected with this parasite do not develop any signs and symptoms but others can experience:

  • Fever and chills.
  • Headaches and body aches.
  • Nausea and fatigue.
  • In some cases, a person can also develop hemolytic anemia.

Hemolytic anemia is a form of anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells. This happens because the Babesia parasites infect your red blood cells! This means people with severe forms of babesiosis may also need to be treated with blood transfusions.

But unlike all of the other tick-borne disease we went over, this last one has no direct treatment. It's Colorado tick fever and it's caused by a virus. This infection can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • A rash
  • Headache and body aches
  • A biphasic fever, where a person get a fever of a few days, then it disappears for several days, then the fever re-appears for a shorter period of time.

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