Jay Olarsch is an avid runner, so he was concerned when he didn’t have the energy to finish a swimming test during his son’s annual Boy Scouts camping trip last summer.
“I felt exhausted,” says Jay, 53. “My body just gave out halfway through the test, which was really surprising.”
The Morganville resident attributed the fatigue and some accompanying headaches to a bout with COVID-19. But when his family noticed a bull’s eye-shaped rash on his arm, he made an appointment with his doctor at Family Practice of CentraState. Alarmingly, on the way to the appointment, he began experiencing double vision, and the team sent him immediately to CentraState’s Emergency Department. During his evaluation, the clinicians noticed a broader rash on Jay’s back, suggesting Lyme disease.
A Closer Look at Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is transmitted to humans from adult and infant (nymph) deer ticks. More than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year. But only about a quarter of patients with early Lyme disease remember being bitten.
There are three stages of Lyme disease infection, explains infectious disease physician Ramanasri Kudipudi, MD.
During the early localized stage, there may be redness at the site of the bite. A few days later, the signature bull’s eye rash, fever, and fatigue may develop.
In the early disseminated stage, patients may experience multiple rashes weeks to months after being bitten. The infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system if not treated early.
If left untreated, the disease enters the chronic disseminated stage, when patients can develop arthritis, brain fog, and more severe rashes in addition to the earlier symptoms.
Jay’s Lyme disease had progressed to the early disseminated stage, so he was admitted to the hospital for treatment. Dr. Kudipudi ordered intravenous antibiotics to fight the infection. In addition, a neurologist performed a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to rule out central nervous system involvement. Jay also was seen by a gastroenterologist because blood tests assessing his liver function were elevated.
“Dr. Kudipudi was confident, reassuring, and empathetic in helping coordinate my care,” Jay says. “She explained the checklist of tests that were needed and the course of action for each result.”
A week later, once his fatigue had subsided and his liver function returned to normal, Jay returned home with an eye patch and antibiotics. Within a few months, the double vision improved, and he was relieved to avoid any lasting vision damage.
“I feel pretty good now,” says Jay, who looks forward to camping with Troop 86 again. “I’m happy to be running more regularly, which helps me clear my head and focus. I thank CentraState for getting me through a rough time.”
Could You Have Lyme Disease?
5 Signs to Watch Lyme disease is easiest to treat if it’s found early. In general, the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Joint pain
- Body aches
- Rash that looks like a bull’s eye
Heightened awareness is the best way to prevent Lyme disease. From spring through fall, those living in areas with ticks must be vigilant in checking for them—especially the nymphs due to their small size. Adults and children should be scanned from head to toe for ticks after outdoor activities. If you plan to spend time in a wooded area, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and insect spray that contains DEET.