Lyme Disease And High Blood Pressure
During the days and weeks after a tick bite, concerns about Lyme disease often grow. Is low blood pressure a symptom of Lyme disease? Can Lyme disease affect your heart?
These are common concerns and, actually, they are well-founded. Several weeks into the disease, Lyme disease can affect the nervous system, even causing Bells palsy, and can get into the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain, causing meningitis. While there is not a specific connection between Lyme disease and low blood pressure or Lyme disease and high blood pressure, Lyme disease can affect the heart. The most common problem is a very slow heartbeat that leads to fatigue, dizziness and possibly fainting. The heart muscle can also become inflamed, which is a condition called myocarditis.
In the later stages of Lyme disease, pain and swelling of joints may develop. This type of arthritis commonly affects one knee or episodes of swelling in several joints, called migratory arthritis. The symptoms can become persistent.
Key Points To Remember
- Most Lyme disease tests are designed to detect antibodies made by the body in response to infection.
- Antibodies can take several weeks to develop, so patients may test negative if infected only recently.
- Antibodies normally persist in the blood for months or even years after the infection is gone therefore, the test cannot be used to determine cure.
- Infection with other diseases, including some tickborne diseases, or some viral, bacterial, or autoimmune diseases, can result in false positive test results.
- Some tests give results for two types of antibody, IgM and IgG. Positive IgM results should be disregarded if the patient has been ill for more than 30 days.
Common Symptoms For These People *:
* Approximation only. Some reports may have incomplete information.
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Diagnosing And Treating Lyme Carditis
The initial symptoms of Lyme disease can be mistaken for other common infections or allergic reactions. Delayed diagnosis and delayed initiation of proper treatment can lead to serious Lyme disease presentations including Lyme carditis in all its forms.
We need ongoing education at all levels to close the gap in knowledge and ensure all participants in the health-care system aware of this preventable condition.
The good news is that prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic therapy leads to a much better prognosis. Lyme carditis responds very effectively to treatment, completely eliminating the cardiac manifestations, with a very favourable prognosis in both short- and long-term followup. We now know that when antibiotics are used according to guidelines, the prognosis two years after the infection reveals no residual disease in the heart.
It is important to remember that most heart conduction abnormalities caused by Lyme carditis resolve with appropriate antibiotic therapy without requiring the implantation of permanent pacemakers. As most patients presenting with Lyme carditis are young and otherwise healthy, any medical strategy that could prevent the need to implant a pacemaker for the rest of their lives is welcomed.
Related Conditions And Causes Of Lyme Disease
Although Lyme disease is by far the most common tickborne disease in the United States, there are others.
Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are caused by tick bites and can affect people of any age. Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, weakness, and headache. Tetracycline antibiotics usually cure the diseases quickly, notes the New York State Department of Health.
Spotted fever rickettsioses are a group of diseases spread by infected ticks and mites. The illnesses these infections can cause can range from mild to life-threatening, and symptoms include fever, headache and rash. The antibiotic doxycycline is usually used to treat spotted fever infections, notes the CDC.
Babesiosis is a rare disease caused by the bite of a tick infected with Babesia microti, a tiny parasite that infects red blood cells. Many people who get this infection dont have any symptoms, while others have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and body aches. A blood test can be done to confirm the infection. If babesiosis requires treatment , antibiotics are used. Its possible to be infected with Lyme disease and babesiosis at the same time, notes the New York State Department of Health.
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Misdiagnosis Of Lyme Disease Chest Pain
When doctors examine a person with heart-related symptoms, their first thought is not often Lyme disease. If they do not test for Lyme disease, symptoms are often misdiagnosed. Chest pain is associated with many other medication conditions, like strained chest muscles, broken ribs, ulcers, and heartburn.
Other conditions with Lyme disease chest pain symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
The list doesnt end there. Doctors may misdiagnose Lyme disease chest pain for symptoms related to diabetes, gastritis, hyperthyroid, lupus, shingles, scleroderma, aortic dissection or stenosis, and pulmonary embolism.
Searching For A Diagnosis
The next few months brought an onslaught of additional symptoms and medical appointments with various specialists. First, a rheumatologist told me that the chest pain I was experiencing was costochondritis, or inflammation of the cartilage of the rib cage.
A spine specialist did X-rays and MRIs of my spine, as my neck had become increasingly stiff with very limited mobility, along with nonstop cracking and popping. A neurologist concluded that I had carpal tunnel syndrome, which would explain the onset of increasing numbness and tingling in my hands. But why was I having these issues I when hadn’t done any of the repetitive wrist motions known to cause carpal tunnel inflammation?
Because I continued to struggle with shortness of breath, a pulmonologist assessed my lungs. Those tests came back normal. Once again, I was told that most likely costochondritis was the cause of my breathing issues. How desperately I wanted all of these pains to go away, yet the diagnoses seemed almost like guesses, and the symptoms were not fading.
I explained that I had been bitten by a tick, but that my tests were negative. He encouraged me to ask for additional testing.
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When Lyme Hurts Your Heart: Warning Signs + Solutions
Ryan Stewart, a speech-language pathologist in Virginia, developed a strange set of symptoms in 2009 that baffled one doctor after another. Included among those symptoms were a racing heartbeat following minimal physical exertion, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pain. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, she explains.
Over the next 10 years, Stewarts symptoms waxed and waned. Some days, they would let up other days, a sudden episode of rapid heartbeats or dizziness would frighten her sending her to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic.
Unfortunately, she always left those healthcare facilities without answers. Though Stewart believed her symptoms stemmed from her heart, repeated electrocardiograms , a cardiac MRI, and a couple week-long stints of wearing heart monitors all came back as normal. They could never catch a cardiac episode, she says.
Determined to live a normal life, Stewart continued her work as an SLP and began planning a family with her husband. After a series of fertility treatments, she became pregnant only to suffer a miscarriage in the early weeks a devastating loss, she says.
I knew this was a new symptom, and I had to go to the ER, says Stewart. They discovered I had ventricular tachycardia, and gave me a diagnosis of idiopathic ventricular tachycardia. Idiopathic meaning they didnt know what the cause was.
Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
If Lyme disease is left untreated, it may progress to early disseminated Lyme disease, which spreads from the bite location to other parts of the body. It may begin to affect the skin, nervous system, and heart. This stage can occur days to months following the initial infection.Neurologic symptoms occur in approximately 10% of untreated people.
Inflammation of the nervous system can cause:
- Facial paralysis
- Numbness, tingling, shooting pain, or weakness in the arms or legs
- Sensitivity to light
- Severe headache or neck stiffness
Lyme carditis, which affects approximately 5% of people in this stage, occurs when the infection reaches the heart tissue and slows down the heart rate too much. Some people may not have any symptoms, while others may experience severe effects requiring hospitalization.
- Shortness of breath
During this stage, you may develop multiple erythema migrans rashes on areas distant from the original bite. You may also experience headaches, muscle or joint pain, or extreme fatigue.
Early disseminated Lyme disease can be treated with oral or intravenous antibiotics for two or more weeks, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
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Some Chronic Lyme Disease Symptoms
As mentioned, chronic Lyme disease consists of a broad cluster of physical, cognitive, and psychiatric symptoms. Some of these symptoms are much more common, while others almost never occur, but can be deadly. But even the less severe symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and pain, can lead to drastic changes in quality of life for chronic Lyme patients.
Chronic Lyme survivors have reported experiencing the following symptoms for months to years after infection:
- Intermittent fevers, chills, and sweats
- Chronic inflammation
- Numbness and tingling in the limbs
- Dizziness and shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Multiple-chemical sensitivities
Chronic Lyme disease can be linked to deadly symptoms, such as Lyme carditis .
According to Lymedisease.org, studies consistently show that chronic Lyme disease patients have poorer quality of life than those with other chronic diseases. One of their own studies showed that 75% of surveyed patients reported at least one symptom as severe or very severe.
Achy Stiff Or Swollen Joints
Joint pain and stiffness, often intermittent, are early Lyme symptoms. Your joints may be inflamed, warm to the touch, painful, and swollen. You may have stiffness and limited range of motion in some joints .
Pain may move around. Sometimes your knees may hurt, whereas other times its your neck or your heels. You may also have bursitis . Bursae are the thin cushions between bone and surrounding tissue.
The pain may be severe, and it may be transitory. More than one joint may be affected. Most often the large joints are involved .
People often attribute joint problems to age, genetics, or sports. Lyme should be added to that list, as these statistics indicate:
- One study estimates that 80 percent of people with untreated Lyme have muscle and joint symptoms .
- Fifty percent of people with untreated Lyme have intermittent episodes of arthritis .
- Two-thirds of people have their first episode of joint pain within six months of the infection .
- Use of anti-inflammatory drugs may mask the actual number of people with joint swelling .
Joint pain that comes and goes, or moves from joint to joint, could be a sign of Lyme.
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What To Do If You Find A Tick
If you see a tick, try to remove it from your childs body. If the tick was on the body for less than 36 hours, it may help prevent infection.
To safely remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick at its head or mouth, close to the skin.
- Pull firmly on the tick until it releases the skin. Try to ease out any parts that get stuck in the skin.
- Wash the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water and apply an antiseptic lotion or cream.
Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
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Lyme disease is an underreported, under-researched, and often debilitating disease transmitted by spirochete bacteria. The spiral-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, are transmitted by blacklegged deer ticks. Lymes wide range of symptoms mimic those of many other ailments, making it difficult to diagnose .
The blacklegged ticks can also transmit other disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These are known as coinfections . These ticks that transmit Lyme are increasing their geographical spread. As of 2016, they were found in about half the counties in 43 of 50 states in the United States .
Lyme is the fifth most reported of notifiable diseases in the United States, with an estimated 329,000 new cases found annually . Some studies estimate that there are as many as 1 million cases of Lyme in the United States every year .
Most people with Lyme who are treated right away with three weeks of antibiotics have a good prognosis.
But if youre not treated for weeks, months, or even years after infection, Lyme becomes more difficult to treat. Within days of the bite, the bacteria can move to your central nervous system, muscles and joints, eyes, and heart .
Here is a list of 13 common signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.
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The Numbers On Chronic Lyme
Because Lyme disease is commonly missed or misdiagnosed, statistics vary on how many Lyme patients go on to experience chronic symptoms. The following research nonetheless paints a basic picture of the problem.
- An estimated 5-20% of patients may have chronic symptoms after getting Lyme disease, according to the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
- The treatment failure rate for chronic Lyme disease patients was estimated at 26-50% in 2004, compared to 16-39% for early Lyme patients, according to Lymedisease.org.
- Up to 15-40% of late-stage Lyme patients develop neurological disorders, which are responsible for many common symptoms of chronic Lyme disease.
Experts dont know for sure why some people experience persistent symptoms, even with treatment. However, some believe the Lyme infection may trigger an auto-immune response that manifests in the chronic symptoms detailed below.
Treatment For Lyme Disease Symptoms
Doctors say the sooner you notice symptoms, the better your outcome. People treated in the early stages of Lyme generally make a full, rapid recovery, the CDC notes.
Antibiotics are recommended for most people with Lyme disease, but what that regimen looks like varies widely from person to person. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says a short course of an oral antibiotic, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin, can clear up Lyme infection in most cases. However, the particular drug, dosage, and duration your doctor recommends may depend on factors such as:
- Your age
- Whether you are pregnant
- Allergies to medications
Even after treatment, some people report lingering symptoms. They may have persistent pain, muscle and joint aches, unexplained numbness, and fatigue, for example. Brain fog and sleep disruption are also common, says Dr. Flanagan. These sputtering symptoms can stretch over a few months, he says, but they will get better graduallyit can take time: two steps forward, one step back.
Symptoms that persist for more than six months may lead to what the CDC calls post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome . The CDC says people with PTLDS can get better in time, but it can take months. Some doctors recommend prolonged antibiotic treatment. However, CDC cautions that long-term courses of antibiotics can actually be dangerous.
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Chronic Lyme Disease Vs Ptlds
The terms chronic Lyme disease and Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome are sometimes used interchangeably. However, PTLDS is slightly more restrictive, referring to patients who have received treatment for Lyme disease but go on to experience Lyme disease symptoms. It does not include those who received a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis and have developed chronic symptoms of Lyme disease before receiving any kind of treatment.
The CDC defines PTLDS as generalized and/or recurring pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties that last for more than 6 months after treatment. These mirror symptoms associated with chronic Lyme disease, with or without treatment.
What Is Lyme Carditis
Lyme carditis occurs when Lyme disease bacteria enter the tissues of the heart. This can interfere with the normal movement of electrical signals from the hearts upper to lower chambers, a process that coordinates the beating of the heart. The result is something physicians call heart block, which can vary in degree and change rapidly. Lyme carditis occurs in approximately one out of every hundred Lyme disease cases reported to CDC.
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Summer is the season to head outdoors, but the looming threat of tick bites has many uneasy about a hike in the woods, with good reason. We are right smack in the middle of peak season for ticks, which means the chance of contracting Lyme disease from a single tick bite is relatively high, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, where 70 percent of the ballooning deer tick population is infected with the health-compromising disease.
Lyme disease is scary in part because the signs can be easy to miss, and undetected cases can progress from treatable to chronic without a patient ever seeing a tick. People on the lookout for the tell-tale bullseye to necessitate a trip to their health care provider may miss the critical treatment window. The reality is that 30 percent of people with Lyme disease never get that bullseye, and because the rash can move locations and is usually not itchy or painful, some people who have a skin reaction never notice it.
So how can you enjoy the outdoors with your family this summer and still avoid Lyme disease? Tick vigilance is a great first step long sleeves and pants, insect repellent containing DEET and Permethrin for clothes and shoes will go a long way in warding off these pesky parasites. Still, there is always a risk of picking up a tiny hitchhiker when you head outside, so its important to understand the symptoms of an infected bite.