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Warning: Tick Repellent and Lyme Disease Both Stress the Liver

Preventing tick bites without toxic chemicals is a win-win for everyone – especially for those who have chronic liver disease.

Unless we are in the dead of winter, tick bites invoke anxiety in areas of the country where Lyme disease is prevalent. Lest they completely avoid the beautiful outdoors, folks in the northeast and upper midwest are accustomed to scanning their bodies for ticks to prevent Lyme disease. For those with a liver condition, ticks pose a double risk; Lyme disease (a tick-borne illness) and the chemicals in common tick repellents can both cause liver inflammation and damage.

About Lyme

The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is spread through the bite of infected ticks. The blacklegged tick (or deer tick) spreads the disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States and the western-blacklegged tick spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast. Ranging in size from a sesame seed to a poppy seed, these ticks can be very small and often escape notice.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can be vague, and may progress to serious illness if not addressed swiftly. The initial stage of Lyme disease typically involves rash and flu-like symptoms, but some people do not notice anything out of the ordinary. If untreated, Lyme can affect various systems of the body, such as the nervous system, the heart and the joints. Some of the more common complications include stiff neck, severe headaches, joint pain and swelling, arthritis, facial palsy, heart palpitations, memory problems, chronic pain, Lyme carditis and other neurological deficits.

Addressed with antibiotics in the early stages, those with Lyme disease usually recover quickly and completely. However, not everyone is lucky enough to easily get rid of Lyme. Some who address it early and some who have progressed to more advanced stages of the illness may require prolonged antibiotic therapy to suppress Borrelia burgdorferi.

Lyme’s Liver Involvement

Lyme usually targets the nervous system, heart and the joints – but all parts of the body are connected. Thus, it is no surprise that researchers have found persistent infection with Lyme disease may cause inflammation of the liver – otherwise known as hepatitis. In a 2003 article published in Hepatology Journal, researchers studied people who had been bitten by a tick. They found:

  • Over 40 percent showed at least one liver abnormality
  • 27 percent showed more than one liver abnormality
  • 66 percent of those who developed the second stage of Lyme disease had elevated liver function results

Experts believe that when Lyme disease progresses past the initial stage, the bacteria pass from the blood into the tissues. When this occurs, the disease becomes chronic – and the liver becomes vulnerable. Because those with a compromised liver are particularly susceptible to any lingering toxin or pathogen, chronic Lyme poses an additional challenge to liver disease sufferers.

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