We all know the importance of identifying changing moles as a warning sign for cancer. This time of year, inevitably, someone will come into the clinic with a “changing mole” or a “blood blister’ that is actually an engorged tick. Coming off a very mild winter, experts are expecting an epic summer for the tick population in Ohio. The most concerning consequence of a tick bite is the risk of developing Lyme disease.
Prior to 2010, there were no known established populations of the black legged tick, the vector that transmits lyme disease, in Ohio. Since then, the tick has spread into Ohio and can now be found in at least 60 counties mostly in the eastern, southern, and central parts of the state. Ixodes scapularis, also known as the black legged tick or the deer tick, is a small, black bodied tick that primarily lives off of the white tailed deer. It lives on the forest floor and can hang from vegetation to attach itself to prey
Lyme disease rates have risen proportionally with the growth of the tick population. 2016 saw 160 confirmed cases in Ohio. Lyme disease is caused by the transmission of the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi from the tick to humans. The primary initial presentation of the disease is a red, expanding, ring-like rash occurring 7-15 days after tick detachment that has a “bulls eye” appearance. It is important that this stage of disease be recognized and treated appropriately because if left untreated, the infection can spread internally causing organ system and nervous system damage.
The most important way to avoid Lyme disease is to avoid getting bitten by ticks in the first place. Apply an insect repellent with DEET before any exposure to normal tick habitats. If you do identify a tick attached to your skin, then the proper way to remove is with tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the base of the skin as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick and avoid “fokelore” remedies such as nail polish, petroleum jelly, or burning the tick off. Call your dermatologist if you develop a rash at the site of the tick bite.