As a child, Lake Barrington resident Mark Eiden said he always enjoyed the chance to romp through the woods at his grandparents’ vacation home in northern Wisconsin.
But now at 28 years old, Eiden said he continues to deal with a Lyme disease diagnosis that likely started by a tick, which transmits the disease, while playing in forests as a kid.
“I never saw a specific tick bite or rash,” Eiden said. “I just started having unexplained symptoms at age 10, like gastrointestinal issues, headaches, depression and anxiety.”
Like with his own experiences, Eiden said there is a lack of public awareness and information about Lyme disease and its causes.
That’s why events like the ninth annual “Lyme Support Network Walk,” which is planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 24 at Citizens Park in Barrington, are necessary, Eiden said, since organizers provide educational materials while also raising money for research.
Although Eiden can’t attend the walk in Barrington, he said the event should help raise people’s awareness about the disease. Last year, the Lyme Support Network raised $16,500 during the walk, which attracted 350 people, according to representatives with the group.
His mother, Jean Eiden, plans to attend the support walk this year, he said.
“I don’t think there’s enough public information on it and sometimes, it’s not right,” Mark Eiden said.
The support walk this year comes at a time when public health officials in Lake County have started to see a rise in the number of Lyme disease cases.
From 2003 to 2005, the average annual number of reported and confirmed cases of Lyme disease totaled 6.7, according to the Lake County Health Department. Between 2012 and 2016, the average annual number increased to 27, officials said.
The deer tick population has increased throughout the Chicago area during the past 10 years, but officials don’t yet have a clear reason as to why, said Mike Adam, a senior biologist for the Lake County Health Department, who will be attending the Lyme Support Network Walk.
One possible reason is warmer temperatures, even in wintertime, throughout the Midwest, he said. Aside from the traditional warmer months, deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, also can be active during the cooler fall months, he said.
“Turn back the clock 15 years ago, and you find the tick areas were northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and New England,” Adam said. “Now, the area is moving south, but there’s something bigger going on and not only here, but in areas like Pennsylvania, Maryland and the East Coast.”
For Mark Eiden, the Lake Barrington resident wasn’t officially diagnosed with Lyme disease until 2009, according to Eiden and Dr. Donald Raden.
Raden, a medical doctor and psychiatrist based in Lake Bluff, has been seeing Mark Eiden for the past three years. In recent years, Eiden’s condition has stabilized largely because of pharmaceutical medications and the proper amount of nutrients, Raden said.
Many Lyme disease patients, such as Eiden, who have been treated by psychiatrists, often face treatment delays because of misdiagnosis, he said.
“Therefore, it is my opinion, that the standard practice of care for any psychiatric patient would be proper testing to rule out an infectious cause to their condition or any other underlying medical concern,” Raden said.
Without the proper information, people won’t know how to protect themselves adequately from tick bites, Mark Eiden said.
Before facing the possibility of medical treatment, people can take some preventative steps, such as wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts to keep ticks at bay during hikes through forested areas, he said.
“Don’t be afraid of the woods,” Eiden said. “If you know you’re going into a tick area, prepare yourself.”