Thousands of patients will contract Lyme disease this year, GPs warned

GPs must consider Lyme disease in patients with bull's-eye rash or if they become unwell following a tick bite, campaigners have warned as modelling suggests the disease is set to reach epidemic levels.

Bull's eye rash triggered by Lyme disease (Photo: iStock)
Bull's eye rash triggered by Lyme disease (Photo: iStock)

Charity Lyme Disease UK said only 3% of GPs had completed a free CPD module on the disease offered by the RCGP, as statistics suggested tens of thousands of patients could be infected this year.

The charity said it was vital that people are educated about the disease, which it said is often mistaken for chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis – and therefore left untreated for longer.

Early symptoms include a bull's-eye rash, fever, headaches and fatigue. Left untreated, patients can develop joint problems, heart problems, chronic pain and neurological problems.

Lyme disease epidemic

Lyme disease is on the rise in the UK, and cases are thought to be growing 65% per year worldwide. Estimates suggest it will designated officially as an epidemic within the next decade.

Public Health England (PHE) has suggested around 2,000-3,000 contract Lyme disease a year – but Lyme Disease UK estimates this considerably higher at as many as 45,000. The discrepancy between these figures highlights how the true number is unknown, it added.

Caused by bacteria from the Borrelia genus, is the most common tick-borne infectious disease in the northern hemisphere. It is particularly common in woodland and heathland areas, but is also found in urban parks and gardens.

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