What is Lyme Disease?
In this blog, you will learn:
- What the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease are
- How Lyme Disease is diagnosed
- Why it is important to get a correct diagnosis so that treatment can be targeted and effective
Do you suffer from fatigue, headaches or muscle or joint pain? Do you have Lyme Disease and do you know how to resolve it? Then this blog on Lyme Disease is for you. Please read on for the details!
** Please note: If you want the longer, more detailed version of this article, then please click here **
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What is Lyme Disease (LD)? (to see our other information on Lyme Disease and how we work with it at our clinic click HERE.)
Lyme Disease is not completely understood in the medical world. In the worse-case scenarios, it can seriously affect a person’s quality of life. It is a complex disease with both acute and potentially chronic symptoms. It is an inflammatory disease. It typically, but not always, starts with a rash, headache, fever, and chills, and can later develop into more serious symptoms such as possible arthritis, neurological or cardiac issues.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Borrelia is a bacterium that is transmitted by an infected black-legged tick. It is most commonly spread by a tick bite. The disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first identified in 1975 in the US.
Lyme is far more common now than it was 30 years ago. In addition, the geographic area in North America for contracting Lyme has greatly increased as well (Radolf JD, 2021). It has historically been associated with natural and forested areas, but has now been found even in New York City and Chicago (Radolf JD, 2021)!
Short-term symptoms include:
Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle/ joint aches. Swollen lymph nodes may also occur, especially if there is no rash. Some studies have shown that only 25% of individuals have the classic bullseye rash.
Additional symptoms may occur days or months after a tick bite (CDC, 2021):
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- More bull’s-eye rashes on other parts of the body
- Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
- 60% chance of developing Lyme arthritis (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2021) with severe joint pain/ swelling, particularly in the knees and other large joints.
- Pain in tendons, muscles, joints, bones
- Heart palpitations or irregular heart beat
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation in the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain, shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Cognitive issues
If left untreated, the infecting pathogen can spread to various organs and tissues, and can severely affect the nervous system, joints, heart and skin (Hout, 2018). People may develop neurological symptoms and heart problems. The signs and symptoms of late-stage Lyme Disease may not be evident for weeks, months or even years.
At Medicine with Heart, we specialize in treating and resolving Lyme Disease. We have written extensively on Lyme Disease. You can read more here in our ‘Lyme & Mold Guide’ (https://medicinewithheart.com/lyme-mold-guide/) and here in our recently published book (https://medicinewithheart.com/use-your-mind-to-heal-your-mold-and-lyme//)
What is Lyme Disease? Diagnosing Lyme Disease
A Lyme diagnosis is made based on symptoms. We look at the physical signs like the bulls-eye rash, although not everybody gets a rash after a tick bite. Other symptoms are assessed. Blood tests are taken. The Western blot test is the most accurate test to diagnose LD. We can expertly analyze a Western blot to get the correct diagnosis from it.
Lyme Disease is sometimes called ‘The Great Imitator’ because it mimics so many other health conditions. If you think you have been exposed to ticks and your symptoms and labs indicate Lyme, then it can sometimes be a good idea to treat presumptively. This can be true even if the diagnosis is not 100% indicative of Lyme.
What is Lyme Disease? Treating Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is typically treated with antibiotics. This may be the best course of action for acute Lyme. Unfortunately, most of the time Lyme Disease goes undiagnosed, becomes chronic and causes much more serious problems for people. Antibiotics are still often used for chronic Lyme and we recommend that these are used very cautiously. In our clinic we work mostly with herbal medicine for the treatment of Lyme and see a much lower rate of recurrence with herbal medicine than with antibiotic treatment.
In our clinic, we have expertise in treating a range of complicated, difficult-to-diagnose conditions like Lyme Disease. We look for the root causes in our patients to identify what could be causing the symptoms. We regularly treat and resolve Lyme, chronic infections and other complex conditions in patients in our Functional Medicine clinic.
What is Lyme Disease? Complications of Lyme Disease
If not treated correctly and early on, Lyme symptoms can persist. Patients with different variations of late-stage Lyme Disease include (Radolf JD, 2021):
- People with untreated late-stage infection (late neuroborreliosis)
- Patients with subjective symptoms that persist after treatment. This is often called post-treatment Lyme Disease syndrome or PTLDS. In PTLDS, patients have non-specific symptoms such as fatigue and widespread musculoskeletal pain, after treatment for Lyme Disease with an accepted treatment regimen. The symptoms can present within 6 months or even many years later.
- Patients with unexplained subjective complaints, often called Chronic Lyme disease or CLD. CLD can describe a range of atypical symptoms such as fatigue and chronic pain which occur due to a lengthy Burgdorferi infection.
CLD and PSLD share similar clinical symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is not uncommon for patients with CLD/PSLD to receive a misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia and/or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Trials have been conducted on the treatment of chronic Lyme Disease. Some clinical trials indicate that re-treatment improved some patients’ issues, such as fatigue and pain. Others have shown improvement in cognitive function.
Lastly, a great concern is when LD goes misdiagnosed or untreated. In these cases, LD can, years later, be diagnosed as chronic inflammatory age-related degeneration (for example arthritis, dementia or stroke). This is partially due to the increased complications of aging for those with persistent and untreated Lyme Disease (Radolf JD, 2021).
Some neurological diseases can even be partially caused by Lyme Disease. We have written extensively about this and you can find the links to blogs here, including Lyme and Alzheimer’s, Lyme and Parkinson’s, Lyme and ALS and Lyme and MS.
** Please stay tuned for our next Blog! **
As always, please get in touch with us. If you or someone you know is struggling with pain, fatigue or other issues related to Lyme Disease, contact our clinic today. We can work on any issue(s) and improve your health. Book a free health evaluation call with us today, to see how we can help you with your concerns. We can answer your questions and help you book an initial consult with one of the functional medicine doctors in our clinic.
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Dr. Miles Nichols and Dr. Diane Mueller have spoken for the following organizations: