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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever vs Lyme Disease

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and Lyme Disease can be contracted by humans who encounter a tick infected with the disease. While many people may associate the two conditions, there are only a few similarities. They are tick-borne diseases with debilitating symptoms affecting millions of people in America, Canada, the UK, and other areas of the world. The diseases are infectious, caused by bacteria, and, unfortunately, are often misdiagnosed by family doctors. Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for both diseases.

It is essential to know the differences between the two diseases when trying to help your doctor figure out the reason for your symptoms, which can be similar in the early stages. Read below to discover the most important factors differentiating Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from Lyme Disease.

The Tick That Causes the Disease

Not all ticks are the same. This statement is true even when discussing bacterial infections leading to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. 

The specific ticks that carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever include the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. Sixty percent of RMSF cases occur in Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and North Carolina. All states have cases of RMSF, however. 

The black-legged tick is a deer tick responsible for transmitting Lyme disease to humans. While Lyme disease was once considered a disease in the Northeastern states, it is now found nationwide.

These ticks are spreading diseases throughout the United States today due to climate changes, invasive species, and land developments. Anytime a tick’s habitat changes due to weather or to develop a residential community, they must move to find new places for survival. 

The Bacteria Transmitted by the Tick

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever results from being infected with Rickettsia rickettsii, making RMSF the most severe infection associated with the bacteria. When a tick is infected with Rickettsia rickettsia, it happens quickly and may go unnoticed. For many, small bright red spotted lesions will appear. The bacteria immediately enter human endothelial cells, forming a layer that lines blood vessels. Endothelial cells assist with proper blood flow, keeping cells within the lining. When damaged, cells can leak outside the lining and into other tissues, causing inflammation and disease.

Lyme disease results from being infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. Unlike RMSF, the deer tick may take hours or days to find a spot to bite a human. The area where the bite occurs is often noticeable, and a bullseye rash appears for some. Lyme bacteria, or spirochetes, enter a person’s bloodstream and multiply and spread throughout the body in three stages. Spirochetes prevent the immune system from functioning correctly, causing constant inflammation and disease progression.


Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever vs Lyme Disease- Lyme Mexico


Symptoms of the Diseases

RMSF and Lyme Disease have distinctive symptoms that occur in different timeframes. For example, a person with RMSF may experience the following within 3 to 12 days after the bite. A symptom timeline may include:

Days 1-2

  • High fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache 

Days 2-4

  • Rash on wrists or ankles
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Eye swelling or redness
  • Muscle tenderness

Days 5-7

  • High fever
  • Worsening stomach pains
  • Respiratory problems
  • Rash spreads up the arms or legs

Days 8 or longer

  • Rash of purple spots
  • Gangrene in fingers or toes
  • Sepsis
  • Heart inflammation and arrhythmias
  • Fluid in the lungs and respiratory distress
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Brain swelling
  • Meningoencephalitis  

Lyme disease symptoms may appear between one and four weeks, known as the early localized stage:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches 
  • Bullseye rash (in about 70% of cases)
  • Stiff neck
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue 

Between four and twelve weeks, early disseminated stage symptoms may include:

  • All of stage one signs, but worse
  • Malaise
  • Facial paralysis
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains
  • Eye pain and double vision
  • Meningitis
  • Neuropathy
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Cognitive decline

Late disseminated Lyme disease occurs months or years after the initial infection and may include the following symptoms:

  • All the above symptoms, but worse
  • Unpleasant touch-based sensations
  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Heart block or arrhythmias 
  • Nerve damage

Treatments for the Diseases

Oral antibiotics are the go-to medicines when first treating RMSF and Lyme disease. Some antibiotics are created to prevent future bacteria growth, while others work to destroy and eliminate bacteria from the body. Doxycycline is the most popular antibiotic used in treating these diseases. The amount and length of antibiotic treatments will vary for each person. Because ticks can carry multiple bacteria, your doctor may need to treat you for co-infections.

For some people, oral antibiotic treatments are not enough to eliminate the bacteria. Your doctor may prescribe intravenous antibiotic treatments to get the medicine into your bloodstream quickly.

Working with a specialist in infectious diseases, often called Lyme-literate doctors, means you can be treated with advanced therapies to ensure the elimination of the bacteria: immunotherapies, therapeutic apheresis, biofilm eradication, and herbal protocols to enhance circulation.

The most crucial factor in treating RMSF and Lyme disease is when the treatments begin. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever progresses quickly and must be treated within the first five days. The disease damages tissues and cells rapidly and can be fatal if left untreated.

Treating Lyme disease within the first few days is preferred, but treatment is delayed since symptoms can take months to appear. Lyme disease can also be fatal, but it would likely take years for the bacteria to damage the body’s organs. 

Both diseases are painful and interfere with functioning. Therefore, both should be taken seriously. When you suspect a tick has bitten you, seek treatment from a specialist, like at Lyme Mexico.

Prevention of the Diseases

You can reduce your chances of acquiring RMSF and Lyme disease by taking a few simple steps before and after you spend time in the outdoors. Wear protective clothing when going on hikes or activities where ticks may live. Spray tick repellent on your clothing and perform tick checks on your body right after returning from the outdoors. Do the same for your pets.

Finally, keep your lawn manicured so that it does not attract ticks. To learn more about RMSF and Lyme disease, contact Lyme Mexico today. Ask for an online consultation and make your health a priority.


Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever vs Lyme Disease- Lyme Mexico

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