Tick Bite Treatments: My Tick Bite Won’t Heal! It’s been months or several years and it still itches and hurts! Why it’s important to have it looked at by a dermatologist? My personal story of a tick bite that NEVER healed turned into basal cell carcinoma.
Can a tick bite turn cancerous?
If you google “Can a tick bite turn into cancer?”, you will be told that a tick bite cannot turn into cancer. Most dermatologists will tell you no because they have never treated a patient where that happened. Most basal cell cancers are caused by sun exposure damage. Most basal cell cancers are caught when small and after removed cause few problems. Of the skin cancers, basal cell cancers are usually the least dangerous. They don’t usually spread quickly or metastasize into other organs and tissues except for rarely. Often they are ignored for months or years before treatment. So in a sense, the articles are correct.
There are exceptions to this rule and I am one of them. I am not sure how many of you may have a tick bite where it has been months or several years and it has not healed. I am sure I am not the only one with this experience. You need to read this article if this is YOU.
Tick bites that never heal are a PROBLEM that should be examined and treated.
My dermatologist still won’t accept that the area where the cancer formed originally was a tick-welt that never healed. They will almost accuse you of making it up. I am here to tell you they can and it happened with mine.
We lived in TN for 5 years. We have lived here in Yuma, CO for over three years. When we lived in TN we scraped ticks off daily. Living in the boonies, our area had an abundance of ticks. Even though we got chickens and ducks to eat down the ticks and kept the area around the house mowed, we still got them while working in the barn, taking the dogs for a walk, and doing yard work. It was a daily body check before bed. We never wore our outside clothes more than one wearing, because of ticks hiding in the crevices of the material. We had welts all the time. I ended up with Chronic Lyme Disease despite taking antibiotics. My husband landed in the hospital with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and later chronic Lyme disease.
In this article, we are going to deal only with the tick-welt issue and the problems it can cause.
In October of this year, 2023, I finally went to a dermatologist. Around 4 years ago, we dug a nasty tick out of my back. I went to the doctor with it and he gave me a round of antibiotics. The problem was that after weeks, it didn’t heal. There continued to be a red area surrounding the place where the tick was taken out. I asked my doctor about it and he said just give it time. He was unconcerned. We moved from TN to Colorado and are living in a town where we don’t have ticks now. The tick welt never did heal and about two years ago would severely itch on and off. It would go weeks without bothering me. I ignored it. It was about a year ago or more that it began to itch all the time. It felt like there was something in the center that hurt when pressed. There was no swelling, nothing to press that seemed to have fluid in it or puss, and it looked unimportant.
About 6 months or so ago the area around it began to itch furiously and hurt nonstop. My husband also noted that it changed shape often getting smaller and larger. It showed a crusting at times as well. No ointments seemed to help that we applied to it. It bothered me at night when I laid down and it was hard to sleep. It continued to get worse to the point I just wanted it gone. I will add here that in March of 2023, I went to a doctor having a Lyme relapse and asked him about the lesion and he discounted it as nothing.
Diagnosis Basal Cell Carcinoma
On Oct 27th, 2023 we both went to the dermatologist for a general, once-a-year physical. I was so tired of the itching and pain. Once I told him about the old tick welt, he immediately told me it should be biopsied. I was sure that they would find part of the tick left in the tissue. I would have bet money on that. A week later, their office called and it was diagnosed as a basal cell carcinoma that should have immediate surgical removal. I was shocked. I realized that it had turned cancerous sometime in the past two years or longer. I then began to research the subject and this is why I am writing this important article.
Tick bites that don’t heal are often ignored or discounted by general practitioners and or other doctors.
Tick bites and Lyme disease are discounted by the majority of doctors. This is changing but is the norm rather than the exception. Most doctors and parents have no idea that a tick welt that does not heal is something to be concerned about. You are treated like you are being a baby if you complain ..suck it up and live with it. Most doctors will tell you to put calamine lotion on it and live with it. No problem when this goes on for months or in my case, several years.
When my basal cell was finally diagnosed this year, it had several years to grow and that is a problem. It was bigger, the excision area cut was almost 4 inches next to my back rib area. The surgery affected my nerves in the area and every movement of my right arm. The surgery was not successful in removing all the basal cell cancer so now am having to treat the area with medicine to kill the remaining cancer cells in that area. This is serious folks. I have no idea and neither does the doctor know how far that basal cell cancer spread in the last two years or so.
Tick Bite Manifestations that don’t heal can turn into the following problems:
- Over time they can turn into papules, larger solid lumps, and plaques then become what is called a tick bite granuloma.
- You may lose hair over the tick bite area which may take several months to heal or in some cases is permanent.
- Tick welts can develop into staph infections which can be dangerous. Staph infections need to be treated with antibiotics.
- Tick Bite Granulomas: “The progression of tissue reaction can be classified into three stages: acute, subacute, and chronic phases.3 Predominant features in the acute phase are dilation of superficial vessels, perivascular lymphocytic inἀltrates, and intense epidermal and subepidermal infiltration of eosinophils. In the subacute phase, diffuse edema and dense infiltration of lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, and histiocytes are seen, followed by an increase in fibrous tissue and the sporadic burst of giant cells in the chronic phase. The reaction to the bite of arthropods may persist for several months to several years. Stimulating agents of the arthropod somehow persist actively in these lesions for a remarkably long time. The history of an insect bite may not be reported by the patient after a lapse of many months. ” Tick Bite Granuloma: Recommendations for Surgical Treatment – PMC (nih.gov)
There are 3 stages to tick granulomas:
“Predominant features in the acute phase are dilation of superficial vessels, perivascular lymphocytic inἀltrates, and intense epidermal and subepidermal infiltration of eosinophils. In the subacute phase, diffuse edema and dense infiltration of lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, and histiocytes are seen, followed by an increase in fibrous tissue and the sporadic burst of giant cells in the chronic phase.” Tick Bite Granuloma: Recommendations for Surgical Treatment – PMC (nih.gov)
The reaction to a tick bite may go on for weeks, months, or years in some cases. They often do not find any tick parts in the biopsy area. They are not sure why the effect of these bites lasts so long or why in some cases the itching and pain persists. They think it’s the salivary extracts from the tick injected into the skin that cause this. In some cases, part of the tick head remains in the tissue as well.
Misdiagnosis is often the case if the patient does not remember he was bitten by a tick in that area. Misdiagnosis includes malignant lymphoma, pyrexia Hodgkin’s granuloma, and or pseudolymphoma.
How do they treat tick granulomas?
Topical steroid ointments do not work in most cases. I found that nothing worked on mine to relieve the itching and pain.
Oral corticosteroid treatment is not usually given due to the side effects of the drugs especially with children.
So usually they do a biopsy and resection. That means they cut out the tick granuloma area causing the problem.
I want to state here that you should always go to a dermatologist and have the tick welt area biopsied if it does not heal within a few weeks or if it oozes, has pus, hurts, itches, or changes shape. If the area gets bigger over time that is an issue.
Why bother seeing a dermatologist if most tick welts that don’t heal aren’t usually an issue?
Two general practitioners ignored my complaints that the area hurt and was causing itching and pain for months. I looked it up and in every article, it stated that a tick bite cannot turn into cancer. There are not many treatments other than surgery that work on tick granulomas, and I did not want surgery.
It was over a year or more later that the pain and itching were constant and keeping me awake at night that I finally decided to go in to have it looked at by a dermatologist. In that year or two that it was not diagnosed properly, the basal cell cancer sent out cancer cells into the surrounding area around it. After the surgery on Oct 1st of this year, 2023, I was told that after an extensive cut, there was still some cancer present. I do not like having to treat the area with medicine to kill the remaining cancer in the area. He has no idea HOW FAR IT Has Spread in those two years. Basal cell cancer when not diagnosed can infiltrate underlying nerves, muscle, and bone. You can’t see it but you can feel it. It is like an iceberg with the top appearing on the skin but the rest is growing underneath it.