Expert Q&A: Is There a Link Between RA and Tick Bites?
Learn what an expert says about the connection between rheumatoid arthritis and tick bites.
Question: Is it possible to get RA from a tick-borne illness?
Answer: No, it is not possible to get RA from a tick-borne illness. The only form of arthritis associated with tick bites in this country is the arthritis that occurs with Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium spread by the deer tick. It is most commonly seen in the northeastern and midwestern U.S. For the majority of people who contract it, the initial symptom is a bull’s-eye-shaped rash that forms around the bite site, often followed by symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and joint pain. Unlike RA, the arthritis that occurs with Lyme disease generally affects individual joints — not pairs of joints, such as both knees or both wrists. Knees are most commonly affected in Lyme disease, while the joints of the hands — a common site of RA involvement — are not. If you live in or have visited an area where Lyme disease is prevalent and noticed the development of joint symptoms after a rash, Lyme disease is certainly a possibility, especially if outdoor activities might have brought you into contact with ticks. It is important to share this information with your doctor, who can determine the cause and best treatment.
John Reveille, MD
Director, Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunogenetics
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
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