Chronic Lyme Disease: How One Tick Bite Can Ruin Your Health Forever
For some people, the symptoms of Lyme disease never go away after treatment. Now we have clues about why this happens, supporting the idea that “chronic Lyme” really does exist
Ticks transmit Lyme disease by passing on Borrelia bacteria when they bite
Eye Of Science/Science Photo Library
BARELY a summer day went by that I didnt hear someone talking about Lyme disease. In the four years I lived on Long Island in New York, checking for ticks became second nature. After a walk in the woods. After a stroll in the marshy grasses by the beach. After a backyard barbecue.
I remember the first one I found on my clothing: a lone star tick, its distinctive white dot almost shining up at me from the crook of my elbow. I panicked until I found out that lone stars dont transmit Lyme disease.
The first time I found the kind of tick that does spread the disease burrowing into my leg, I retched, then rushed to the doctor the second time, I calmly went to the clinic to have it removed and get tested. In time, panic gave way to low-level, background worry.
Maybe I was right to be alarmed. Lyme disease is on the rise around the world. This bacterial infection spread by tick bites can lead to joint pain, fatigue, neurological damage and even temporary facial paralysis. If caught early, it is treatable in most cases. But some people report symptoms that never go away, even after treatment.
For some people, Lyme disease symptoms never go away
If I Already Have Lyme Disease What Added Risks Does Covid
COVID-19 should pose no additional risks for you if your Lyme disease was detected early, you have been treated with antibiotics, and your symptoms have resolved. You may, however, be at a greater risk of complications from COVID-19 if your immune system is decreased from the more severe forms of Lyme disease, such as post-Lyme disease syndrome or chronic Lyme disease.
Diagnosis Testing And Treatment
You may have heard that the blood test for Lyme disease is correctly positive only 65% of the time or less. This is misleading information. As with serologic tests for other infectious diseases, the accuracy of the test depends upon how long youve been infected. During the first few weeks of infection, such as when a patient has an erythema migrans rash, the test is expected to be negative.
Several weeks after infection, FDA cleared tests have very good sensitivity.
It is possible for someone who was infected with Lyme disease to test negative because:
If you are pregnant and suspect you have contracted Lyme disease, contact your physician immediately.
* Silver HM. Lyme disease during pregnancy. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1997 Mar 11:93-7.
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Malfunctioning Immune System May Explain Chronic Lyme Symptoms
Most people with Lyme disease are cured by antibiotics, but a certain percentage go on to have lasting symptoms even though it looks like all bacteria have been wiped out. A new study suggests lingering symptoms may be due to an immune system malfunction triggered by the original infection.
Using a mouse model to explore what could be happening to unlucky patients, researchers discovered that an infection with the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, could spark an aberrant immune reaction in which cells that normally target specific pathogens become activated in a more general way. In other words, the body is attacking itself.
I grew up in Vermont and Lyme disease affected people all around me,said the studys lead author Sarah Whiteside, a graduate student at the University of Utah. It was far worse for those people that continued to suffer even after antibiotic treatment.
Of the more than 300,000 Americans who contract Lyme disease each year, about 10 percent continue to suffer from symptoms after treatment with antibiotics, which can include arthritis, fatigue and mental fogginess.
Whiteside was hoping to find an explanation for those prolonged symptoms. The lab research indicates an out-of-whack immune response could be whats responsible for the persistent symptoms in chronic Lyme disease patients.
Try A Recipe From My Book
Sesame Chicken Salad
This refreshing salad manages to be both sweet and savory, with a lovely crunch thanks to the addition of slivered almonds. It requires very little prep time, especially if you make the shredded chicken ahead of time in a slow cooker.
The short amount of prep time required is perfect it youre short on time or energy for cooking. This salad contains several functional food ingredients beneficial for those with Lyme disease, including vitamin C-rich oranges and lime juice, folate-rich leafy greens, and anti-inflammatory extra-virgin olive oil.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
- 4 ounces cooked chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 1 cup fresh orange segments
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger root
- 2 tablespoons tamari sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
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Autoimmune Diseases That Mimic Ibs Should Be Ruled Out
Theres no specific test for IBS. The diagnosis depends on a pattern of symptoms.
You may receive a diagnosis of IBS if:
- youve had symptoms of IBS, such as bloating, abdominal discomfort, or a change in bowel movements and habits for more than 3 months
- youve had symptoms on and off for at least 6 months
- your quality of life is affected
- no other reason can be found for your symptoms
The cause of IBS isnt entirely clear. It may be a combination of factors that cause the disorder. It may even be that theyre different for everyone.
Some factors that may play a role are:
- stressful events or prolonged periods of stress
- mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression
- bacterial or viral infections of the GI tract
- bacterial overgrowth or changes in gut bacteria
- inflammation in the intestines
Lyme And Covid Can Share Some Symptoms
Symptoms of both Lyme and COVID-19 can vary widely from person to person. However, some symptoms that can show up in both multiple stages of Lyme disease and COVID-19 are:
Additionally, since COVID-19 is still such a new illness, people are reporting new and unusual symptoms every day, including skin problems, discoloration, and rashes that may be confused with rashes caused by tick-borne diseases.
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Meet With An Autoimmune Or Lyme Disease Specialist
With any chronic condition such as Lyme disease, implementing effective & holistic treatments that will put you on the road to recovery is a top priority for all of us at LifeWorks Wellness Center.
We provide every patient with individualized, quality treatment. As one of Floridas top autoimmune disease clinics, our doctors understand what you are going through and can give you a proper diagnosis that will identify whether you are suffering from an autoimmune disease or even Lyme.
How Lyme Bacteria Can Outsmart The Human Immune System
Press release from University of Maryland:
A University of Maryland researcher has uncovered a mechanism by which the bacteria that causes Lyme disease persists in the body and fights your early, innate immune responses.
Dr. Utpal Pal, Professor in Veterinary Medicine, has been studying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria throughout his twelve years with UMD, and his work has already produced the protein marker used to identify this bacterial infection in the body.
Now, Dr. Pal has isolated a protein produced by the bacteria that disables one of the bodys first immune responses, giving insight into mechanisms that are largely not understood. He has also observed a never-before-seen phenomena demonstrating that even without this protein and with the immune system responding perfectly, the bacteria can spring back in the body weeks later.
Understanding this bacteria, which is among only a few pathogens that can actually persist in the body for long periods of time, has major implications for the treatment of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, which is an increasingly chronic and consistently prevalent public health issue.
Most people dont realize that they actually are walking around with more bacterial cells in their bodies than their own cells, so we are really bags of bacteria, explains Pal. Most are good, but the second your body detects something that is a pathogen and can cause disease, your immune system starts to work.
Also Check: Early Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Do Autoimmune Disease And Lyme Affect Adrenal Health
In one word, yes. It most certainly does. Autoimmune disease and Lyme cause an inflammatory response that someone with adrenal fatigue may find difficult in addressing. If you’re suffering from this condition, please talk to a healthcare practitioner well-versed in adrenal health to address possible complications.
Healthy Immune Hygiene In A Lyme Disease Treatment
One of the best ways to optimize the immune system is through regular immune boosting practices. These include light to moderate exercise, meditation, quality sleep, and a healthy diet. For information about sleep see: Sleep 101: The Basics. For information about diet see The Best Brain, Inflammation, Pain, and Detox Diet Ever.
Although exercise is generally good, if done in excess it too can suppress the immune system. So exercise to tolerance only. Experiment to see what amount and intensity of exercise does not leave you more tired or in pain the next day. For some in the beginning of treatment any amount of exercise is too much.
Support for the immune system starts by providing the building blocks it needs which are free of environmental toxins. A diet rich in whole organic foods provides essential micronutrients for immune function and optimal liver and kidney detoxification. However, a healthy diet alone does not provide adequate levels of essential micronutrients for those with chronic Lyme disease. Compared to the past, the earth is less micronutrient dense. For this reason a well balanced multivitamin with minerals plus amino acids is essential.
Recommended Reading: Tick Bite Lyme Disease Rash
Late Lyme Disease Discovery
To make matters worse, a large portion of people with Lyme disease only realize they have the condition after some time. This could result from an initial misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment. The result is lasting symptoms that worsen over time.
These people, often initially thought to suffer from either chronic fatigue or depression, have also been thought of as hypochondriacs in certain extreme cases. And all this while they had Lyme disease!
How Lyme Disease Subverts The Immune System
Press release from the University of California, Davis:
The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are able to trick an animals immune system into not launching a full-blown immune response or developing lasting immunity to the disease, report researchers at the University of California, Davis.
The discovery may explain why some human patients remain vulnerable to repeat infections by the same strain of bacteria, especially in regions where Lyme disease is prevalent. It also suggests that blood tests may not be an effective method for detecting previous exposure to Lyme disease, by far the most common vector-borne disease in the United States and Europe.
Findings from this mouse-based study are reported July 2 in the online scientific journal PLOS Pathogens, published by the Public Library of Science.
We demonstrated that an animal infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the corkscrew-shaped bacteria that cause Lyme disease, launches only a short-lived immune response, and that protective immunity against repeat infections quickly wanes, said Nicole Baumgarth, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and an authority on immune response to infectious diseases at the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine.
This study also suggests a possible mechanism responsible for the disappearance of antibodies following infection and subsequent treatment with antibiotics, she said.
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Autoimmune Disease And Lyme: The Connection
Research into autoimmune disease and Lyme have made a startling discovery. The long-term treatment with antibiotics only eradicates all the bacteria in a certain percentage of those affected. In others, where remnants of the bacteria persist, their initial symptoms could progress and result in damaging neurological health issues. Furthermore, many of these people develop various autoimmune conditions, including the likes of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. They could also end up suffering from conditions closely related to adrenal fatigue. These include, amongst others, memory issues, chronic fatigue, a decline in cognitive function, and even various mood disorders.
Your body’s autoimmune response to the bacteria may result from damage encountered while initially infected. The bacteria’s outer coat is similar to that of your nervous system tissue. Your immune cells that were reacting to the bacteria could end up attacking your own nervous system tissue. Essentially, the residual bacteria tissue causes an immune system response. This results in the many irregular diagnoses surrounding Lyme disease and the autoimmune disorders that develop because of this bacterial infection. So, autoimmune disease and Lyme has a definite connection.
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed
To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will consider:
- How likely it is that you were exposed to infected blacklegged ticks
- The possibility that other illnesses may cause similar symptoms
- Results of any lab tests
Most Lyme disease tests check for antibodies made by the body in response to infection. These antibodies can take several weeks to develop. If you are tested right away, it may not show that you have Lyme disease, even if you have it. So you may need to have another test later.
Recommended Reading: How Long Can A Person Live With Lyme Disease
Ilads Conference On Lyme And Covid
The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society recently held a conference on the intersection of the novel coronavirus and Lyme disease. The conference highlighted, among other issues, the one health framework, examining how interactions between humans, other species, and the planetary environment contribute to the spread, study, and treatment of infectious diseases like Lyme and COVID-19.
Why Do People Get Chronic Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease has eluded doctors for many years. Those who are bitten by the infectious deer tick usually do not realize they have been bitten and do not show the telltale sign of the bullseye rash anywhere on there skin. In fact, only 1 in 5 Lyme sufferers ever exhibit such a symptom, yet it is often the only clear-cut sign that doctors can solely identify as being representative of Lyme. If and when a person is diagnosed with Lyme, mainstream medical practitioners will usually treat him or her with a two-to-three week course of antibiotics. Considering Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, the antibiotic treatment seems practical and in some cases, will rid the person of Lyme completely.
However, if the disease has gone untreated, the likelihood that one short course of antibiotics will kill the bacteria entirely is unlikely. Although symptoms may disappear for a short while, the remaining bacteria will eventually flourish once more and many who have been treated will relapse back into full-blown, chronic Lyme.
In an even more unfortunate circumstance, some Lyme sufferers are diagnosed far too late into their infection. With such vague and overlapping symptoms, Lyme is often misdiagnosed or mistreated, leaving the patient with chronic pain that only seem to worsen with time. Although the disease is fairly common, doctors frequently dismiss Lyme in lieu of other medical problems including depression, chronic fatigue, andin the most extreme caseshypochondria.
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Addressing Autoimmune Disease And Lyme: Conventional Versus Holistic Healthcare Measures
Autoimmune disease and Lyme could cause some serious neurological damage as well as leave you with a few autoimmune-related health issues causing damage to joints, bones, gut, muscles, and bones. Please remember, however, that you would not present all the various complications arising from this bacterial infection. But you may have a few.
Conventional medicine, to a large extent, depends on the use of antibiotics in addressing the bacterial infection and then addressing the arising symptoms separately. The use of the medications used in treating the various associated symptoms could have their own set of contraindications and side effects. These, unfortunately, could result in you feeling worse while your weakened body tries its best to counteract them.
The holistic approach is quite different. It is one that looks at your diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors that could worsen your condition. This approach, although seemingly general in nature, helps the body to heal itself and get out of the cycle of self-destruction caused by a cyclical immune response. Other holistic approaches include ozone therapy, low-level laser therapy, and herbal supplements. With any approach, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider as each body is different and you might need a blend of both approaches.