Lyme disease is notorious for being difficult to diagnose and going untreated. This May, know the symptoms and help raise money for research.

Lyme is a bacterial infection transmitted through deer ticks and black-legged ticks. Ticks are small and their bites are relatively painless, therefore they can go unnoticed. The longer a tick feeds, the more likely they are to transmit Lyme. Typically a tick needs to be attached for 36 hours to infect its host. However, not all ticks are infected so just because you’ve been bitten doesn’t mean you’ll have the disease. Lyme affects people of all ages, but children and those who spend time in wooded areas like park rangers are more likely to contract the disease.

The disease can affect any organ in the body and has a wide variety of symptoms.  Most symptoms overlap with other diseases making Lyme difficult to diagnose. The most common symptom is a bulls eye shaped rash that occurs days or weeks after a bite. This occurs in 70-80% of cases. Other symptoms include Bell’s palsy, stiffness of the neck, headache, and joint pain. Consult a symptom checklist like the one on lymedisease.org to help determine whether you have Lyme.

Thankfully Lyme can be treated with antibiotics. The key is to catch it quickly. Unfortunately, some patients despite treatment continue to have symptoms. This is called late or chronic Lyme. Doctors haven’t determined what causes ongoing symptoms.

The Infectious Disease Society of America is hesitant to believe chronic Lyme disease even exists. Patients who complain of fatigue or trouble concentrating after treatment may be diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease and prescribed antibiotics to help treat symptoms. Some experts believe said patients are being misdiagnosed. Chronic Lyme, or Post-Treatment Lyme Disease, can drastically alter someones quality of life with pain and fatigue being the worst symptoms.

Like many other diseases there is still mystery surrounding Lyme disease. One thing is clear, though: the best treatment is prevention. The best way to avoid tick bites is to avoid walking through high grass and wooded areas. Wear long socks and pants and walk in the middle of the trail. The Center for Disease Control suggests repelling ticks with DEET.

After potentially being exposed to ticks wash and inspect your body within a few hours. Ticks can also cling on clothes before moving to the body. A heat cycle in the dryer will kill any remaining ticks.

When removing a tick use tweezers. Pinch the tick close to the skin and pull straight up.

This month, states all over the country are putting up billboards and activists are hosting Lyme Walks and other events to raise money and awareness for those suffering with Lyme disease. Since 2010 Lymedisease.org’s walks have raised money for Lyme research. Anyone who wants to start their own awareness project can use resources listed on the site.