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Lyme Disease And Nerve Damage

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Vagal Tone And 4 Ways To Bolster It

Lyme Disease and the Nervous System with Patricia K. Coyle, MD

The concept of vagal tone has seen a recent surge in interest among integrative health and wellness professionals, but some of the first-known research on the subject dates back to the early 1900s. .

Your vagus nerve is involved in many different bodily processes, so its essential to understand how to get out of the chronic flight-or-fight mode. Lets take a closer look at some options.

Lyme Disease: A Short Primer For Pain Practitioners

Gudin J. Lyme Disease: A Short Primer for Pain Practitioners. Pract Pain Manag. 2014 14.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dramatically increased the estimate of the annual number of new cases of Lyme Disease in the United States from 30,000 to 300,000, with 14 states accounting for over 96% of cases reported.¹ In the United States, Lyme disease is most common in northeastern states, from Virginia to Maine Upper Midwest states, mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota and the West Coast, mainly in the northwest.

The number of new LD cases each year certainly qualifies this infection as an epidemic or at least a highly endemic disease. Consequently, pain practitioners must familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of LD. This article is a short primer on LD to give the pain practitioner some basic information and guidance. Given the magnitude of LD, Practical Pain Management will seek to expand on LD research in future issues.

Three Stages Of Active Infection

Infection following a tick bite causes 3 stages of disease . The early localized infection causes a rash called erythema migrans, commonly called a bulls-eye rash, which eventually resolves, even without antibiotic treatment. Although diagnostic following a tick bite, the rash only occurs in about half of LD cases. In the early stages of infection, the spirochete can spread to other tissues and organs , causing more severe symptoms. LD has a predilection to attack the facial nerve and cause Bells palsy.¹³¹ The disease also commonly affects the neck and cervical spine, causing pain, stiffness, headache, and possible radicular symptoms. Joint, muscle, and nerve pain begin to occur during active infection, with the knee being a favored site of joint pain.

The late, disseminated stage of infection is characterized by neurologic manifestations and severe arthritic pain in joints.²¹ There may be shooting pains, myalgias, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, insomnia, and problems with short-term memory. Tragically, the spirochete may have a predilection for the central nervous system .¹³¹ Once infected, CNS LD may cause a number of symptoms that may mimic other neurologic diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons disease, and Alzheimers disease. Many physicians refer to CNS infection by LD as neuroborreliosis.¹¹³¹

Also Check: Can Lyme Disease Cause Brain Fog

Neurological Complications Of Lyme Disease

The NINDS supports research on Lyme disease. Current areas of interest include improving diagnostic tests and developing more effective treatments. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases , the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases , and the National Center for Research Resources , all parts of the National Institutes of Health , also support research on Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial organism that is transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tick. Most people with Lyme disease develop a characteristic skin rash around the area of the bite. The rash may feel hot to the touch, and vary in size, shape, and color, but it will often have a “bull’s eye” appearance . However, there are those who will not develop the rash, which can make Lyme disease hard to diagnose because its symptoms and signs mimic those of many other diseases.

Anywhere from 7 to 14 days following an infected tick’s bite, the first stage of Lyme disease may begin with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint pain.

Pain Treatment Of Active Disease

Nerve Damage

Pain may be severe enough to require specific analgesic therapy at any stage of LD. The first line of pain treatment is anti-inflammatory agents, because inflammation is always present with LD. The agents can be delivered topically or systemically. Topical anesthetics such as lidocaine also are helpful for managing joint pain . In addition to anti-inflammatory agents, standard, step-wise multimodal pain treatment is recommendedstarting with agents such as acetaminophen, muscle relaxants , various neuropathic drugs, and complementary therapies. Opioid analgesics may be required for severe pain if non-opioid measures are ineffective. Hypnotic agents may be necessary for insomnia, and anxiolytics often are required as well.

Recommended Reading: Is Vertigo A Symptom Of Lyme Disease

How To Diagnose Neuropathy

For most people, a diagnosis of neuropathy may be based upon a persons medical history, physical exam, lab work, and neurologic evaluation. The following tests can be useful to identify the condition, as well as rule out potential causes and contributing factors.

  • Neurologic Exam: During a neurologic exam, your doctorusually a neurologistassesses reflexes ability to feel sensations like hot, cold, and pain coordination balance muscle strength and muscle tone.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests are run to assess nutritional deficiencies, organ function, toxins, and the presence of an atypical immune response.
  • Electrodiagnostic Tests : EDX testing checks how well the muscles and nerves are functioning by measuring their electrical activity, which assists in determining the extent of nerve damage. Two commonly used procedures are electromyography and nerve conduction velocity . During an EMG, small needle electrodes are inserted through the skin into the muscle to measure the electrical activity while the muscle is at rest, during a mild contraction, and during a powerful contraction. Frequently, the NVC will be completed at the same time as the EMG, which helps further assess the amount and speed with which an electrical impulse moves through a nerve.
  • Other Tests: The need for other testing will depend on the severity of your symptoms and could include specialized sensory testing, genetic testing, or a biopsy with tissue samples from a nerve, muscle, or skin.

Can Lyme Disease Cause Neurological Problems

Lyme disease can wreak havoc on the entire body and every system within it, including the nervous system. The nervous system is a communication pathway that is made up of the brain and spinal cord. Another part, the peripheral nervous system, has nerves that extend to other parts of the body from the spine.

When this system becomes affected by Lyme disease, certain health issues can arise that affect more than just the brain the nervous system is, after all, essentially in charge of a persons movement, balance, senses, thought processes, and awareness. Unfortunately, the borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme also has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it can get directly into the brain and cause issues with neurological health.

The reason why the nervous system can be so strongly affected by Lyme disease is because the borrelia bacteria is able to travel through the bloodstream throughout the entire body. It makes its way to joints, tissues, and the nervous system, and camps out wherever it can to survive in its new host.

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How Peripheral Nerves Regenerate

When a peripheral nerve is injured, a rapid process begins where specific cells in the bloodstream flow into the damaged area and start to clean up and digest the injured nerve tissue. The benefit of this process is that it prevents unhealthy scar tissue from developing. This process is medically referred to as Wallerian degeneration.

At the other damaged end of the nerve fibre, also known as the partner end, Wallerian degeneration occurs which helps the nerve to protect the channel within the trunk fibre. This helps the mentioned sprouts of the other end of the nerve to find their way to the partner end without being obstructed by scar tissue.

The regrowth rate of the damaged nerve occurs at one to two millimetres per day at most. In real-life time, this can mean that it can take, for example, between six to nine months for a torn nerve to regenerate from a branch in the neck to the end of the arm.

The most important causes of peripheral nerve damage by medical conditions include diabetes and a vitamin B12 deficiency, which is mainly caused by the excessive intake of alcohol.

Patients who are diagnosed with these conditions need to take extra care in controlling their glucose levels with the correct measures and medications and those affected by a vitamin B12 deficiency should be advised to stop using alcohol and need to have this element replaced through adequate supplementation, respectively.

What Is Lyme Disease

Dysautonomia/pots/nerve damage from Lyme

Lyme disease is a severe condition that can disguise itself as several other health problems. Some of the symptoms include:

  • muscle aches and pain
  • migraines
  • rashes

If it is diagnosed early on, the symptoms can be treated with antibiotics. Still, if Lyme is left untreated, it can lead to long-lasting chronic symptoms, including nerve damage.

Read Also: What If My Dog Has Lyme Disease

Symptoms Of Lyme Disease

A circular or oval shape rash around a tick bite can be an early symptom of Lyme disease in some people.

The rash can appear up to 3 months after being bitten by an infected tick, but usually appears within 1 to 4 weeks. It can last for several weeks.

The rash can have a darker or lighter area in the centre and might gradually spread. It’s not usually hot or itchy.

The rash may be flat, or slightly raised, and look pink, red, or purple when it appears on white skin. It can be harder to see the rash on brown and black skin and it may look like a bruise.

Some people also get flu-like symptoms a few days or weeks after they were bitten by an infected tick, such as:

  • a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
  • headache
  • tiredness and loss of energy

Some people with Lyme disease develop more severe symptoms months or years later.

This is more likely if treatment is delayed.

These more severe symptoms may include:

  • pain and swelling in joints
  • nerve problems such as pain or numbness
  • heart problems
  • trouble with memory or concentration

Can You Reverse Nerve Damage Caused By Lyme Disease

Only one tick bite can cause a debilitating disorder named Lyme disease.

Lyme affects the entire body and causes problems with your immune system and brain function. What is even more concerning is that the bacteria can lay dormant and still affect a patient long after being treated. This is the main reason why Lyme disease causes nerve damage.

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Can Nerve Damage Caused By Lyme Disease Be Reversed

As mentioned above, it is very important to have Lyme disease diagnosed early on. If left untreated, it can cause peripheral neuropathy. Experts say that it might take several weeks or months for nerve damage symptoms to appear, which is why it can go undetected for quite some time.

Luckily, Lyme disease patients can prevent and overcome this issue with a natural nerve pain relief supplement.

NutriNerve was created to help the body recover from nerve damage by supplying all the necessary nutrients for nerve health.

Usually, Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. But these can cause significant vitamin depletion.

As a result, the body experiences vitamin deficiencies, which can worsen the condition and lead to the early onset of nerve damage.

This is why experts suggest a daily intake of NutriNerve.

This natural formula can provide nerve pain relief, but it can do even more for your body!

It is rich in Alpha Lipoic Acid, Gamma Linolenic Acid, Vitamin B1, B12, and D. This formula can offer relief from:

  • stabbing pain in the feet
  • numbness and burning sensations in the feet, hands, and lower legs
  • sensitivity to touch
  • chronic pain and cramps
  • loss of coordination and balance

And studies show that NutriNerve encourages your body to heal on its own and promotes nerve health.

Reduce Your Microbial Burden

LYME SCI: Nerve damage shown in patients with chronic Lyme symptoms

When youre dealing with Lyme disease and coinfections, its not always easy to pinpoint which stealth pathogen is affecting your nervous system. In fact, its most reasonable to recognize that all sneaky microbes are capable of disrupting immune function and causing it to go awry.

When your bodys microbial burden becomes too great, your microbiome becomes imbalanced, driving inflammation and aggravating neuropathy. Thus, at the top of the priority list is decreasing the infectious load to normalize and calm the immune system.

When youre looking for natural solutions to lessen the impact of stealth pathogens, herbal therapy can play a critical role. Not only do herbs have antimicrobial properties, but they are anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidants as well.

Moreover, herbs dont disrupt the delicate balance of the microbiome like synthetics medications do. Some of my favorite herbs with antimicrobial and immunomodulating properties to keep in mind include:

Also Check: Lyme Disease Diagnosis And Treatment

Be Mindful Of What You Eat

Processed foods, sugar, gluten, and dairy tend to be inflammatory for most people, and they neglect to deliver the vital nutrients your body needs to keep neuropathy at bay and manage pain. Not only are these types of foods an insufficient source of nourishment, but many are also filled with artificial ingredients like dyes, preservatives, and other additives that contribute to inflammation and increase pain. Additionally, foods and beverages that contain gluten, salt, and alcohol can exacerbate symptoms try to steer clear of them as best you can.

Right about now, you might be asking, You just named all the good stuff. So, what can I eat? Plenty, I promise!

Start by replacing pre-packaged, refined foods with nutrient-dense vegetables, low-sugar fruits, lean meats, and healthy fats, especially those high in inflammation-fighting omega-3s. A good rule of thumb to follow is to fill your plate with at least 50% vegetables.

With this strategy, youll be well on your way to minimizing your intake of problematic foods. If youre unsure of whether a particular food is causing a flare-up, you might choose to begin an elimination diet and keep a food journal so you can more accurately identify triggers that could be contributing to the severity of the issue.

Treating What You Dont Know

The other big question is how to treat something with a cause that cant be identified.

Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed on the theory that B. burgdorferi might still be hiding out in the body somewhere. However, although there have been anecdotal short-term successes, Marques said no studies have shown sustained benefits from antibiotics to people with chronic Lyme disease or those with post-Lyme disease syndrome.

The majority of people who contract Lyme and are treated for it with a course of antibiotics do get better with time.

But those who dont 10 to 20 percent, according to Marques review of the research fall into the post-Lyme disease syndrome category.

Those people continue to experience persistent or intermittent symptoms a year after completing the antibiotics therapy.

Children appear less likely to develop long-term symptoms as are those who dont delay antibiotics or have less severe cases of Lyme in the first place.

In cases of chronic Lyme, people who test negative for the disease despite symptoms could be infected with another tick-borne illness or have an autoimmune disorder or other problem.

How to treat these long-term symptoms is still a mystery.

For now, Marques and her team are working on identifying biomarkers and other ways to find out definitively whether Lyme disease is to blame for the symptoms.

That additional research is becoming more critical.

Researchers have predicted higher tick numbers in some parts of the country this summer.

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Lyme And Neuropathy: How To Ease Nerve Pain Tingling And Weakness

Lyme disease can affect several systems of the body the brain, nervous system, joints, heart, and more.

The list of symptoms infected individuals can experience is expansive and varies from person to person.

Its one of the reasons a Lyme disease diagnosis may be controversial.

Yet, one thing everyone seems to agree on about the tick-borne disease is that it can significantly impact the nervous system, especially without prompt treatment in the early stages of the infection.

Unfortunately, Lyme often goes missed early on. The telltale sign of a Lyme infection an erythema migrans rash, or the classic bulls-eye rash doesnt occur in every case. .

And the initial symptoms of infection may be nothing more than fever, chills, headache, fatigue, or muscle aches, making them easy to miss or brush off as a case of the flu.

But as the disease advances, the bacteria associated with Lyme, Borrelia burgdorferi, spreads via the bloodstream to other parts of the body, a process known as dissemination. This occurs in the days and weeks following infection, referred to as early disseminated Lyme disease.

If an infection goes untreated for months to years, however, theres a good chance the infection will proceed to late stage or late disseminated Lyme disease, sometimes called chronic Lyme disease. Thats when the nervous system can become involved, and symptoms ratchet up to a whole new level.

Can Neuropathy Be Reversed

Understanding the Persistent Symptoms in Lyme Disease | Johns Hopkins Medicine

The good news regarding peripheral neuropathy is that peripheral nerve cells grow throughout a persons lifetime so there is always room for renewal of damage or dead cells.

Through clinical trials as well as ongoing treatment, many patients have reportedly felt good as new after early detection of neuropathy and time intervention were carried out. How reversible a particular neuropathic condition will also depend on if the neuropathy is acquiredwhether it is hereditary or idiopathic.

Read Also: Lyme Disease Specialist In Colorado

How Is It Treated

Facial palsy is treated with oral antibiotics and Lyme meningitis/radiculoneuritis can either be treated with oral or intravenous antibiotics, depending on severity . Most people with Lyme disease respond well to antibiotics and fully recover. Varying degrees of permanent nervous system damage may develop in people who do not receive treatment in the early stages of illness and who develop late-stage Lyme disease.

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