Four months after Avril Lavigne hinted at health issues in a series of cryptic Twitter messages, the singer revealed that she is suffering from a severe case of Lyme disease.
In an exclusive cover story with People, Lavigne explained that she had been feeling exhausted and lightheaded for months, and up until October, doctors were unable to figure out what was going on.
“I could barely eat, and when we went to the pool [at my 30th birthday party], I had to leave and go lie in bed,” she told People. “My friends asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ I didn’t know.”
Soon after, the doctors diagnosed her with a severe case of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the most commonly reported vectorborne illness, with around 30,000 cases diagnosed in 2013.
Post-diagnosis, Lavigne surmises that she was bit by a tick last spring. “I had no idea a bug bite could do this,” she said. “I was bedridden for five months.”
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move. I thought I was dying.”
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While around 60% to 80% of people will develop a bull's-eye rash after spotting a tick on their bodies, it’s not always that simple to recognize the disease. Many of the symptoms—fatigue, painful joints, and headaches—may lead doctors to diagnose a patient with the flu or another illness. Even blood tests aren’t 100% accurate.
When Lyme disease is caught right away, though, two to three weeks of oral antibiotics can eliminate the bacteria. If the disease has time to spread to the central nervous system, patients usually require four weeks of intravenous antibiotics.
As Lavigne's case shows, symptoms can be severe. That's why it's so important to take anti-tick precautions, like bug spray and staying in the center of hiking trails, when you're venturing outdoors, especially if you live in the upper Midwest or northeast where Lyme is most prevalent. Make sure to check for ticks after coming inside, and if you spot one, remove it immediately.
Now Lavigne is recovering at home in Ontario, and she’s “80 percent better,” she said, thanking her fans for all their support while she was MIA. “The get-well messages and videos they sent touched me so deeply.”
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