According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 25,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease across the United States in 2013. Lyme disease is the leading cause of all insect-borne illness in the country. The disease takes its name from Lyme, Connecticut, where the illness was first identified in the United States in 1975.

John AucottBut what exactly is Lyme disease and how does someone get it? John Aucott, a Lyme disease expert in the Division of Rheumatology at Johns Hopkins, explains preventive measures and treatments for Lyme disease in today’s Ask the Expert.

He also talks about the new Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center, housed at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, which he directs. Through this research center, Aucott is leading SLICE, the first controlled study in the U.S. to examine the impact of Lyme disease on patients’ immune systems and their long-term health.

Learn more about Lyme disease and submit your own questions for Aucott to answer.

How does a person get Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by the bite of a deer tick. Deer ticks are common along the East Coast. They are present in wooded areas that surround our homes and areas where we enjoy the outdoors. The peak season for ticks to bite and transmit Lyme disease is during the late spring and summer, peaking in June, July and August.

What are some symptoms of Lyme disease? Is it contagious?

Lyme disease rashThe main symptoms of acute Lyme disease are those of a flu-like illness with fever, chills, achiness and fatigue. In many patients, this is accompanied by a round red skin lesion at the site of the tick bite. This usually begins several days to weeks after the bite, and the redness expands for many days or weeks when it isn’t recognized and treated. The skin lesion is often mistaken for a spider or bug bite. Lyme disease is not contagious between people.

If I find a tick on myself, do I need to get tested for Lyme disease?

The majority of tick bites do not transmit Lyme disease. If you remove an attached tick, look carefully for a round or oval red skin lesion that may develop at the site of the bite. Blood tests do not accurately diagnose Lyme disease in the first few weeks of infection, so being vigilant about looking for symptoms is a more reliable way to identify an early case of Lyme disease. Blood tests do become positive in most people after three to four weeks of infection, and they can be performed at that time if infection is suspected.

What are some preventive measures people can take to avoid Lyme disease?

The risk of getting Lyme disease is greater the longer a tick is attached. Therefore, doing tick checks is important so they can be removed before they transmit Lyme disease. Even better is to avoid being bitten by ticks in the first place. The best preventive advice is to avoid exposure in wooded, overgrown areas and to stay on trails when you hike. Deet can be used on your skin, and permethrin can be used on your clothes to help repel ticks.

Can you explain more about SLICE?

The Study of Lyme Disease Immunology and Clinical Events (SLICE) recruits individuals with the rash of early Lyme disease and follows them after standard antibiotic treatment for an additional year of observation. The study tests for changes in health and immune system function that may develop after treatment. Blood samples collected in the study are being used to develop more accurate diagnostic tests and to discover abnormalities in the immune system that may accompany the different stages of Lyme disease.

Learn more about this new center by reading the press release, “First U.S. Center to Study Lyme Disease Launched at Johns Hopkins Medicine.”

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
No Comments

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
6 Comments

There are hundreds of clinical research trials across Johns Hopkins Medicine, though only 3 to 4 percent of patients are currently enrolled in one. If you were a patient at Johns Hopkins, or any other medical institution, would you choose to enroll in a clinical research trial? Cast your vote in today's poll and share your thoughts below about why you would or would not choose to enroll in one.

Would you enroll in a clinical research trial?

View Results

Polls Archive

Loading ... Loading ...

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
5 Comments

Do you rely on a pedometer, Fit-Bit or Garmin watch to help track your workouts and reach your fitness goal? What gadget, app or tracker has worked best for you? Share your thoughts in today’s Question of the Week.

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
6 Comments

Have you been lucky enough to shake hands or rub backs with a famous athlete, movie star or otherwise famous celebrity? Share your favorite celebrity sighting or meeting in today’s Throwback Thursday.

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
33 Comments

Do you often feel a burning sensation in your chest after enjoying Indian food or several helpings at a Thanksgiving feast? If you experience heartburn, you’re not alone. Hear from a few Johns Hopkins experts on how to safely manage heartburn and whether it really has anything to do with your heart in today’s Ask the Expert.

For more information, visit the Johns Hopkins Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology’s website at hopkinsmedicine.org/gi.

 

What is heartburn? Does it affect my heart?

Heartburn is typically described as a burning discomfort in the mid-to-upper chest that can also feel like pressure or bloating. It can be accompanied by acid reflux and often occurs after eating a big meal. About 20 percent of Americans will have acid reflux symptoms at least once a week, while half will experience these symptoms once a year.

Heartburn is one of many symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can include acid reflux as well.

The difference between heartburn and heart problems is often found in the symptoms. Symptoms of heart trouble often follow a period of walking or exerting yourself and continue in increasing frequency as you continue to move around. Symptoms may include shortness of breath and pain in the neck, jaw, arm or shoulder.

When should I see a doctor?

Heartburn should be of concern if you experience it more than two to three times a week, for more than two weeks at a time, or if it doesn’t go away after taking antacids.

Gastroenterologist John Clarke also says that the big worry with heartburn is the irritation of the esophagus, strictures or possible Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. You should also consider seeing a doctor if you have symptoms accompanying heartburn such as weight loss or difficulty swallowing, if you’re older than 50, or if you have a family history of Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. Your doctor may recommend an endoscopic screening to rule out one these conditions.

Is it safe to take medications to treat heartburn?

Ellen Stein, assistant professor of medicine, says that the risk of not treating heartburn is pretty low compared to benefits, so if you have a good reason to take the medication, you shouldn’t have to worry about taking them.

Stein suggests Tums or Malox for infrequent heartburn, though more frequent symptoms may require a more daily medication or even a prescription medication, such as Zantac, Prilosec and Ranitidine.

Some studies have shown risks after long-term heartburn medication use, including osteoporosis, low levels of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, and increased risk of some infections. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and before starting any long-term medications.

What are some alternatives to medication?

Some people may not want to rely on medication to fix their heartburn symptoms. Here are a few lifestyle changes and suggestions to consider that can help alleviate heartburn symptoms.

  • Lose weight – Losing as little as 5 percent of total body weight can be very effective
  • Cut back on coffee, soda and other acidic foods, which can exacerbate heartburn
  • Stop smoking and drink alcohol in moderation
  • Eat smaller quantities of food
  • Leave at least two hours between a meal and lying down
  • Don’t eat late at night

Remember, medication can’t always compensate for a Big Mac and fries at 10 p.m., according to Stein!

 

Resources for this Ask the Expert included:

Eating Well for Digestive Health, Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library
“Feeling the Burn,” Johns Hopkins Health, winter 2010
Heartburn Q&A with Ellen Stein, Johns Hopkins Medicine YouTube channel

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
No Comments

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
No Comments

According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, approximately five to 16 percent of American adults have some type of specific phobia, though there is no known cause. Some of the top phobias include fear of spiders, snakes, public speaking and heights. Cast your vote for what you are most afraid of in today’s poll.

Out of some of the top phobias, what's your biggest fear?

View Results

Polls Archive

Loading ... Loading ...

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
15 Comments

Trauma surgeon Albert Chi has applied the novel technology of 3-D printers to produce high-tech artificial limbs at a greatly reduced cost to patients. Other 3-D printed items have included shoes, tools, commercial jet parts and even food. If you had access to a 3-D printer, what would you print? Share your thoughts in today’s Question of the Week.

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
4 Comments

Do Whitney Houston tunes make you want to dance with somebody? Do you start to tap your feet at the first few chords of the Four Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”? Are your moves to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” simply untouchable? Share your favorite old-school songs in today’s Throwback Thursday.

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
21 Comments