AS an MP, I am continuously learning. Every week constituents come to me with a range of problems, some of which I am know about, others, however, are completely new to me.

Recently, a constituent came to me about her daughter who suffered from Lyme disease.

I will be honest: I knew very little about it.

However, after meeting both Louise Alban and her daughter, Rachel, from Hurworth, my eyes were opened as to how serious this little known condition can be.

A young student, attending Oxford University, Rachel had the whole world at her feet. But then she was bitten by a tick.

Rachel’s case went undiagnosed for years, often leaving her bed-bound, reliant on her parents and fiancé. An ambitious young woman, trapped by chronic Lyme disease.

What struck me, however, was the lack of awareness about Lyme disease.

According to the NHS, there are up to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year. Lyme sufferers face a multitude of problems.

First of all diagnosis. Early treatment of this disease can make all the difference, but many sufferers, such as Rachel, face a fight to be diagnosed.

Transmitted by ticks carrying a Borrelia bacteria, the disease's symptoms are varied. The most immediate and visible, which is thought to occur in less than half of cases, is a bull's-eye rash – a bright red spot with red circle around it, like the centre of a dartboard – which can appear up to 30 days after being bitten. Other early signs include flu-like symptoms.

Should these early signs be recognised, then Lyme disease can be treated. However, if left undiagnosed, it can develop into a much more serious condition affecting the nervous system, causing swelling around joints, and inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

It is these later stages which cause confusion. Testing is not always accurate, and many of the symptoms are similar to those associated with ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The latter is what doctors were convinced Rachel was suffering from.

Due to not being diagnosed early, Rachel is now in these later stages. Unable to fulfil her dreams. As a result of the effects of Lyme disease.

She is having to travel to America to receive further treatment, which raises profound questions: what about those people who are unable to do this, who don’t have the finances to fund treatment.

Nevertheless, we can raise awareness of the condition, and hopefully prevent people from getting to the stage that Rachel suffers from.

While doctors can take the online training provided by the Royal College of General Practitioners, we can also do our bit.

When out walking, in long grass, for example, check for ticks. Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. They pass on the disease by biting a human after having bitten an animal which carries the Lyme bacteria – but the ticks are so small sometimes people don't notice they've been bitten.

So vigilance is important – and, without wishing to be alarmist, the NHS says that the North York Moors is one of nine areas of the country known to have a high population of ticks. You can find out more by checking the NHS website,

To many people, like myself before meeting Mrs Alban, Lyme disease is an unknown. It shouldn’t be.

Our best means of beginning to tackle it is by being more knowledgeable. I hope this article may be a start, and I shall also be bringing it up in Parliament.