Long-Term Side Effects of Lyme Disease in Teens

by Bonnie Weinstein Crowe Google

    If your teen complains of headaches and sports a round red rash on his body, he could have the beginnings of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bite from an infected deer tick, which spreads a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi throughout the bloodstream. Lyme disease can cause teens medical complications that have lasting effects. Even after being treated with antibiotics, teens can have lingering complications that could take years to clear up.

    Lyme Disease Symptoms

    A teen can contract Lyme disease without even knowing it. Many kids won’t see the tick or feel its bite, as these insects are tiny and hard to spot; therefore, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of the disease, which can include fever, headache, body aches, sensitivity to light and extreme fatigue. Also, while most victims exhibit a bulls-eye shaped rash after being bitten, a small percentage of people don't. If your teen is complaining of any of the symptoms of the disease and has recently been out in the woods where infectious ticks are present, it’s best to take him to a doctor where a simple blood test can determine if he’s been infected.

    Arthritis

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website claims that approximately 60 percent of patients who do not receive treatment for their Lyme disease develop arthritis, a painful swelling of the joints and particularly the large joints like the knees. Even teens who have been treated for Lyme disease with antibiotics can experience joint pain, though symptoms often eventually dissipate with time.

    Fatigue and Depression

    Teenagers with Lyme disease may be too tired to attend school and require home schooling or some other alternative education plan. Prolonged periods away from school may make teens lonely and depressed. Even after returning to school, teens may still feel tired and weak, and have difficulty keeping up with their peers. This fatigue could alter their mood and disposition.

    Cognitive Problems

    Students with Lyme disease may see a drop in their grades and have problems with memory and concentration. Math, science and foreign language studies may be especially challenging for teens suffering from Lyme disease. A 2004 Columbia University study found that children and teens with Lyme disease had significant cognitive deficits. The study also found that Lyme in teens can bring about long-term neurological impairments that result in social and academic deficits.

    Missed School

    The pain of severe headaches, body aches and fatigue can cause teens to miss a significant amount of school. A study in New Jersey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and cited by the Lyme Disease Association Inc. found that children and teens that contracted Lyme disease missed on average 103 days of school and that it took an average of 363 days to recover fully from the illness.

    Bell’s Palsy

    According to the Teens Health website, Lyme disease can cause a temporary weakness or paralysis of a side or portions of the face known as Bell’s Palsy. Most people with Lyme disease will not develop Bell’s Palsy, although it is a risk associated with the disease. Teens may have difficulty controlling their eyelids and mouths on one side of their face, as the nerves swell and compress. This swelling and compression of the nerve is a temporary immune system response that typically shows up in the first few weeks of being infected with Lyme disease and can take up to three months to heal.

    Post-Treatment Lyme Disease

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that 10 to 20 percent of patients with Lyme disease continue to have symptoms, including muscle and joint pain, cognitive defects and fatigue, even after they have been cured of the disease with antibiotics. Teens with this disorder, called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, may have difficulty concentrating and learning in school. While post-treatment Lyme disease eventually goes away, it could take time, and teens may have to be home-schooled until they can handle the day-to-day routine of high school.

    About the Author

    Bonnie Weinstein Crowe writes children's books, young-adult fiction, science fiction, graphic novels and screenplays. Her articles have covered relationships, parenting, autism, film, music, TV, education, art technique, dogs, figure skating, gardening, food, humor, computers, travel, video games, graphic design and technology. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley, earning a B.A. in writing.

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