DEAR ABBY: May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. I'm a longtime Canadian reader who has suffered from it for many years. More than 300,000 people are infected by this tick-borne illness every year, yet people know little about it.
If someone doesn't recognize the symptoms and seek treatment immediately, Lyme disease becomes chronic and debilitating. For many years it wasn't well understood, and many sufferers like me have gone from doctor to doctor with their long list of symptoms, becoming increasingly frightened and depressed.
Please suggest your readers learn about Lyme disease by visiting ILADS.org or canlyme.com. It isn't as rare as some people believe. It has been found everywhere on the planet except Antarctica. -- LYN D. IN "ABBYLAND"
DEAR LYN: I'm glad to do that. Several years ago, my husband caught Lyme disease while sitting in a friend's living room in California.
Our friend's dog had been running loose through some marshland that afternoon, and several ticks it picked up bit my husband. When he noticed the bulls-eye inflammation, we called our doctor, who said to come in right away and have it checked. After taking one look, the doctor called in his partner -- a doctor from Connecticut -- to take a look. (Lyme disease is named for a city in Connecticut.) They said the rash was "classic."
My husband was lucky for the quick and accurate diagnosis. Because it was caught early, strong antibiotics headed off any serious problems. But not everyone is so fortunate, and people with chronic Lyme disease have been known to suffer for life. A word to the wise: Be informed.