What is Anaplasmosis?


Image: Shutterstock/ Tacio Philip Sansonovski

Anaplasmosis is a disease spread by the bite of a tick that can be fatal if left untreated. But in addition to being dangerous, it can also mimic some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. And because the bite of a tick carrying anaplasmosis is often painless, you may not even remember being bitten. All of that can sometimes make it difficult to tell if you’re suffering from fibromyalgia or from anaplasmosis.

So what exactly is anaplasmosis? How is it treated? And how can you tell the difference between it and fibromyalgia?

What is Anaplasmosis?

Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria that is frequently found in a particular species of tick, the¬†blacklegged tick. Infected ticks then bite people, spreading the bacteria into their bloodstream. The bacteria then multiply inside the infected person’s body until it begins to cause a series of symptoms.

What’s interesting about this condition is that the symptoms are often very different from person to person. And if you haveit, you might display only some of these symptoms. But these are the most common signs of anaplasmosis:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Pain
  • Joint Pain

Usually, these symptoms appear within a week or two of being bitten by a tick. The severity of the symptoms often depends on the immune system of the person infected. And people with compromised immune systems are at particular risk of serious illness.

How is it Treated?

In most cases, anaplasmosis is very treatable. Only about 1% of cases lead to death. If treated early and effectively, the vast majority of people make a full recovery within a week or two. But in more severe cases, the disease might require hospitalization.

The first line of treatment for anaplasmosis, like many tick-borne diseases, is Doxycycline. Doxycycline is one of the only antibiotics that is known to be effective for fighting the kind of bacteria that is spread by ticks. And using other antibiotics in cases of anaplasmosis is usually associated with negative treatment outcomes.

Other treatments focus on handling the symptoms and are similar to the kind of treatments you’d use for the flu. Rest, adequate hydration, and basic over-the-counter painkillers can all help with the general symptoms in early cases of anaplasmosis.

But by far, the best way to handle all tick-borne illnesses is to prevent infection in the first place. And the best way to do that is to avoid getting bitten. Ticks tend to live in wooded areas where they can breed and find food. So avoiding areas where ticks are likely to be is a good way to avoid bites.

And ticks can’t jump, so they latch onto a host by climbing up long stalks of grass where they can reach your legs. Avoid long, thick grass and wear long pants rather than shorts. Tucking your pants into your socks can also keep ticks from getting under your clothes. This won’t stop ticks from climbing onto you, but it will make the easier to spot before they can bite.

Finally, if you’re going outside during the summer, it’s a good idea to use a high-quality insect repellent to keep ticks away from you.

Anaplasmosis Vs. Fibromyalgia

Some of the symptoms of this condition are similar to fibromyalgia. There are the chronic muscle pain and fatigue, which is similar to that caused by fibromyalgia. And anaplasmosis can also lead to aching joints, which can mimic the tender points of fibromyalgia in some ways. Finally, it can also cause the sort of mental confusion that could be confused with the “fibro fog” caused by fibromyalgia.

And without treatment, the symptoms of anaplasmosis can get more severe to the point where someone suffering from it might confuse their condition with the debilitating effects of fibromyalgia.

But there are few things that make the two conditions easy to tell apart. First, anaplasmosis causes vomiting which is not typically the case with fibromyalgia. And the high fever that comes with this kind of tick-borne disease is a dead give away. There are also tests that doctors can run to determine if you’re suffering from anaplasmosis.

The test consists of evaluating your blood for the presence of the bacteria that causes anaplasmosis. The difficulty comes in realizing that you have the condition in the first place, especially if you weren’t aware of the tick bit that caused it. But if you’re suffering from flu-like symptoms and high fever that lasts for days you should see a doctor for tests. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

So, what do you think? Do you have anaplasmosis? What was it like? Let us know in the comments.