May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month because most people who develop the tick-borne illness are exposed to the disease during this month. When an infected deer tick bites a person, a bacterial infection sets in that can lead to chronic Lyme disease. For many people, the infection can be cleared up with antibiotics if the drugs are administered early on, but the disease may not be diagnosed early enough for some people and others may not be helped by antibiotics.
Chronic Lyme disease can lead to fatigue, severe joint pain and many other health problems related to the cardiovascular, neurological and musculoskeletal systems. Lyme disease can cause mental health problems such as mood swings, irritability and cognitive problems.
According to the New York State Department of Health, more than 95,000 cases of Lyme disease have been confirmed in the state since 1986. The health problems caused by Lyme disease can be disabling and a person may need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits.
The application process is not clear-cut because Lyme disease is not directly included as a listed medical impairment eligible for disability benefits, but many of the health conditions caused by Lyme disease are listed medical impairments. An applicant and his or her attorney will have to prove that the applicant suffers the symptoms of one of these conditions, such as a musculoskeletal or mental health condition, or suffers from the disease to the extent that they can no longer work.
Preventing Tick Bites
Bites from nymphal deer ticks active May through July are what lead to Lyme disease. These young, tiny deer ticks are difficult to spot and may look like a freckle or mole on your skin. Wearing light-colored clothing while hiking in the woods can help you to spot deer ticks on your clothes, and tucking your pants into your socks can prevent ticks from entering under your clothes. It is important to catch a tick bite as soon as possible, preferably within 36 hours. Check yourself carefully for ticks every couple of hours while outdoors and at the end of the day. Remember to check your scalp, back and armpits.
A few more tips to help prevent deer tick bites and Lyme disease:
- Put tick collars on your pets to help keep them from bringing ticks inside. Also consider using a tick repellent on family members, but read all instructions carefully and only use a small amount.
- Use tweezers to remove a tick. The goal is to remove the entire tick without puncturing or crushing it. Grasp the tick near its mouth parts and pull it upward in a steady motion.
- Wash the bite with soap or rubbing alcohol after removing the tick and wash your hands. Keep a record of where the tick bite occurred. If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms in the next month, seek medical attention.
The New York State Department of Health offers more information on tick-borne illnesses and more tips on preventing tick bites on its website. If you already suffer from Lyme disease and can no longer work or if your application for disability benefits has been denied, contact a qualified Social Security attorney at the Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller to review your options.