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Can Tick Bites Cause Heart Disease?


Those who hike often know to check themselves for deer ticks after every outing. Deer ticks (or blacklegged or bear ticks) are small, bloodsucking parasites that attach themselves to various animals. They act as a disease vector by passing on bacteria in their bites. Lyme disease, caused by the Borrelia bacteria, is one disease most commonly spread by the insect. Every year, around 300,000 people are infected with Lyme disease in the United States.

Lyme disease can lead to a large variety of symptoms, which worsen the longer the infection goes untreated. Early symptoms mimic the flu (fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes). A rash at the site of the tick bite can also develop, one which grows in size and can reach up to a foot wide. Later symptoms can be more serious:

  • Severe headaches
  • Neck stiffness
  • Rashes
  • Arthritis
  • Facial palsy
  • Pain in tendons, joints, bones, and nerves
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain/spinal cord
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet

One of the most severe side effects is called Lyme carditis, which happens when Lyme disease bacteria enters the heart tissues. Heart disease is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a range of conditions that affect your heart,” and Lyme carditis definitely fits under that umbrella. The organism interferes with the normal movement of electrical signals from the upper to lower chambers of the heart, something that causes irregularity with a person’s heartbeat. Symptoms of carditis include light-headedness, shortness of breath, fainting, heart palpitations, or chest pain, in addition to other Lyme disease symptoms. While Lyme disease can be treated with weeks of antibiotics, if left untreated, it can lead to death.

If you’ve been bitten by a deer tick, consult your doctor about whether or not you may be infected with Lyme disease. Contact our Scottsdale Lyme disease treatment center for more information We offer free consultations.