Tick Removal

Updated: Feb 11, 2016
  • Author: Steven Brett Sloan, MD; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

Ticks can carry and transmit a remarkable array of pathogens, including bacteria, spirochetes, rickettsiae, protozoa, viruses, nematodes, and toxins. A single tick bite can transmit multiple pathogens, a phenomenon that has led to atypical presentations of some classic tick-borne diseases. In the United States, ticks are the most common vectors of vector-borne diseases (see the images below).

Ixodes scapularis close-up. Image courtesy of Just Ixodes scapularis close-up. Image courtesy of Justin Finch, MD.
Ixodes scapularis, tick vector for babesiosis. Cou Ixodes scapularis, tick vector for babesiosis. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See Lyme Disease and 4 Emerging Tick-Borne Illnesses, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify and treat several tick-borne conditions.

Also, see the Bug Bites You Need to Know This Summer slideshow for helpful images and information on various bug bites.

In North America, the following diseases are caused by tick bites:

In Europe, the list is similar, but other diseases should be considered as well, including boutonneuse fever (caused by a less virulent spotted fever rickettsial organism, Rickettsia conorii) and tick-borne encephalitis. [1] No postexposure treatment is available for tick-borne encephalitis, but vaccines are in use for prevention. [2, 3, 4]

Animal and human studies have shown that the risk of Lyme disease transmission increases significantly after 24 hours of attachment and is even higher after more than 48 hours of attachment. [5] Testing of ticks for tick-borne infectious organisms is generally not recommended, except for research purposes.

Healthcare practitioners, particularly those in areas where Lyme disease is endemic, should become familiar with the clinical manifestations of, and recommended testing and therapy for, Lyme disease; they should be equally knowledgeable regarding human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) and babesiosis. If necessary for identification and testing, ticks can be placed in a sealed container containing alcohol.

For patient education resources, see the Tick Management Handbook developed by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Indications

Removal is indicated when a tick is attached to the skin (see the image below). There are no contraindications for removal.

Ixodes scapularis mimicking a nevus at first glanc Ixodes scapularis mimicking a nevus at first glance. Image courtesy of Justin Finch, MD.
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