After several weeks of being infected with Lyme disease, approximately 60% of those people not treated with antibiotics develop recurrent attacks of painful and swollen joints that last a few days to a few months. The arthritis can shift from one joint to another; the knee is most commonly affected and usually one or a few joints are affected at any given time. About 10% to 20% of untreated patients will go on to develop lasting arthritis. The knuckle joints of the hands are only very rarely affected.
Lyme disease can also affect the nervous system, causing symptoms such as stiff neck and severe headache (meningitis), temporary paralysis of facial muscles (Bell's palsy), numbness, pain or weakness in the limbs, or poor coordination. More subtle changes such as memory loss, difficulty with concentration, and a change in mood or sleeping habits have also been associated with Lyme disease. Other associated neurological problems include movement disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Nervous system abnormalities usually develop several weeks, months, or even years following an untreated infection. These symptoms often last for weeks, months, or years and can be difficult to eradicate
Heart or Cardiac Problems
A few people infected with Lyme disease would develop some type of heart complication from it. This could range from irregular heart beat or, slow heartbeat (bradycardia), to orthostatic hypotension. There can also be dizziness and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be temporary or they can be chronic especially in patients that have chronic Lyme disease.
Less commonly, Lyme disease can result in eye inflammation and severe fatigue, although none of these problems is likely to appear without other Lyme disease symptoms being present.
Lyme disease imitates a variety of illnesses and its severity can vary from person to person. If you have been bitten by a tick and live in an area known to have Lyme disease, see your doctor right away so that a proper diagnose can be made and treatment started.
Methods include using insect repellant, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides and reducing tick habitat.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid wooded, bushy areas where ticks may be present. If bitten by a tick, remove the tick promptly and properly by gently grasping the tick near its head or mouth. Avoid squeezing or crushing the tick. Pull it carefully and steadily. Once the tick is removed, treat the area with antiseptic solution.
Other methods of prevention include dressing properly if going into wooded or grassy areas. Wear clothing to cover your entire skin surface except the face. Wear hats gloves and socks to reduce tick exposure
The Great(er) Imitator
Lyme disease is called the great imitator. Another spirochetal infection, syphilis was called the great imitator by doctors decades ago because the disease had several phases which could mimic many other diseases. Lyme disease is a more artful imitator than syphilis. This disease can appear to be many other diseases like Parkinson’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); Fibromyalgia; Chronic Fatigue syndrome and so forth.
The patients may appear healthy outwardly but their internal physiology is unhealthy. The organism that causes Lyme disease (B. burgdorferi) is a spirochete and is related to the spirochete bacterium that causes syphilis. They are very similar microscopically and are both capable of taking different forms in the body depending on what conditions they need to accommodate. B. burgdorferi’s corkscrew-shaped form allows it to burrow and hide in a variety of the body’s tissues, thus causing wide ranging multi-system effects. There are currently over
100 strains of B. burgdorferi in the U.S. alone and 300 worldwide, many of which have developed resistance to various antibiotics.
Lyme Disease Testing
The easiest way for a doctor to diagnose Lyme disease is to see the unique bull's-eye rash. If there is no visible rash (as is the case in about one-fourth of those infected), the doctor might order a blood test three to four weeks after the onset of the suspected infection to look for antibodies against the bacteria. The variable signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are nonspecific and often are found in other conditions, making diagnosis difficult. In addition, ticks that transmit Lyme disease also can in some cases spread other diseases at the same time. The test used most often to detect Lyme disease is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. ELISA detects antibodies to B. burgdorferi but because it can sometimes provide false- positive results, it's not used as the sole basis for diagnosis. This test may not be positive during the early stage of Lyme disease, but the rash is distinctive enough to make the diagnosis without further testing in people who live in areas infested with ticks that transmit Lyme disease. If the ELISA test is positive, another test — the Western blot — is usually done to confirm the diagnosis.
This is a two-step test. This test detects antibodies to several proteins of B. burgdorferi. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test helps detect bacterial DNA in fluid drawn from an infected joint. It's not as effective at detecting infection of blood or urine. It's used for people who may have chronic Lyme arthritis. It may also be used to detect persistent infection in the cerebrospinal fluid of people who have nervous system symptoms. The test is ordered when the ELISA result is either positive or uncertain.
It should be noted that in the first few weeks following exposure to the organism, antibody tests are not reliable because the patient’s immune system would not have produced enough antibodies to be detected.
At our practice, we often use one of the local and or national laboratories to test for Lyme disease. In addition to Lyme, we also test for co-infections like Cytomegalovirus (CMV); Babesia; Ehrlichiosis; Chlamydia pneumoniae; Epstein-Barr virus (EBV); Human Herpes Virus 6 (HHV-6); Mycoplasma; Bartonela and Candida. We also test for food allergies and heavy metal analysis in our work up.
Making the correct diagnosis is crucial in this disease and this greatly impacts the correct treatment plan. This is why we recommend certain laboratories for these specialized testing.
Why is Lyme Disease So Difficult to Treat?
As mentioned previously, acute Lyme disease is very easy to treat. Usually three weeks of oral antibiotics would clear the infection. On the other hand, patients infected longer than 6 months move into the chronic Lyme disease phase. This is very difficult to treat. The
reason for this, we believe, is due to the several different life forms of the bacterium. It exists in the Adult form, the cell wall deficient form, the cystic form; the DNA aggregate form and lastly, it exist in biofilm.
All these forms exist in the infected individual at the same time. Many antibiotics can kill the adult spirochete. Some antibiotics can kill the cystic form and the cell wall deficient (CWD) forms but NO antibiotics can affect the DNA aggregates or the biofilm. The difficulty is that these forms co-exist at the same time in the individual and the organism can move from one form to the other and back and forth. This is the stumbling block in Lyme disease treatment.
For this reason, we have developed a comprehensive approach to treating this infection. We employ a 4 legged stool approach in dealing with this recalcitrant infection.
At GMA, our Lyme patients have chronic Lyme disease. These are patients that were diagnosed with Lyme many years after contracting the bacterium or who present to us with a panoply of symptoms and after appropriate examination, history and laboratory studies, are diagnosed with Lyme disease. These patients would present with a whole host of symptoms including fibromyalgia, malaise, chronic fatigue, memory impairment (brain fog and frank memory loss and cognitive problems), and so forth. Our approach to treatment is a very comprehensive approach. We believe and research has shown that long term antibiotic therapy, while beneficial to some extent, cannot totally eradicate Lyme.
GMA Approach to Lyme Disease
Acute Lyme disease is easy to treat. By acute we mean that someone is infected with the Lyme bacterium and he or she presents to a healthcare professional within three months of the infection. In all likelihood, that patient could be cured of Lyme disease with three to four weeks of oral antibiotics.
On the other hand, when a patient has chronic Lyme disease (that is infection that has been present for six months or longer) and in some cases that we see, several years, and the patient’s symptoms have gone unrecognized as Lyme disease, it is difficult to treat and eradication or total suppression of the infection would require a very comprehensive approach. Antibiotics are not the cure; even high dose, long-term intravenous antibiotics cannot eradicate or totally suppress chronic Lyme disease. Because chronic Lyme disease is a complicated infection which affects many body systems, it is truly a disease complex. Therefore, its treatment must employ a comprehensive approach. At Grace Medical, we use advanced integrative approach to treating this complex disease. What we have found to be the most effective approach is the following protocol consisting of:
1. Whole body detoxification. Detoxifying the body is very important. The body of the infected person already has a high load of free radicals due to the presence of the bacterium. Additionally, the patient may have heavy metal toxicity. Here, we use EDTA chelation therapy to detoxify the body and reduce free radical load, especially where heavy metals are present in the body.
2. Dietary Counseling. Avoid diets that produce high free radical load. We would advise our patients to reduce diets that produce high levels of inflammation. For example, processed foods and simple carbohydrates are high inflammatory foods.
3. Behavioral modification. Here we advise our patients on proper sleep habits and stress reduction.
4. Oxidative therapies. These would include Ozone therapy and high dose Vitamin C infusions. We also employ Ultraviolet Blood Irradiation or UBI.
5. Hormone testing and balancing. This could include thyroid hormones replacement as well as other hormones.
6. Potent supplements to boost energy and improve sleep as well as proper gastrointestinal functioning.
7. Phospholipid exchange therapy. Every mammalian cell has phospholipids in its cell wall. Therefore, these molecules are extremely important in the way the cells function; in information transmission in and out of the cell.
8. Nutrient Infusions. These could be modified Myer’s cocktail that are beneficial in increasing the energy level of the patient.
Lyme disease has become very controversial all across the country. This ought not to be so. Lyme disease is a REAL disease. More than 300 diseases and conditions are associated with Lyme disease complex. Estimates are that there are anywhere from 30,000 up to 300,000 new cases every year in the United States. This is a major public health concern. The majority of patients are misdiagnosed (under-diagnosed) and given other diagnoses The Lyme disease organism exists in the body in different forms at the same time. These include the adult organism, cystic forms and forms hiding in Biofilm. Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis, therefore, the absence of antibodies does not rule out the disease. There are many stumbling blocks that patients with this disease complex face. First, the proper testing must be done using a Lyme competent laboratory. Co-infections and other disruptions of the body must be sought, eg. Heavy metals; food allergies, etc. Secondly, the correct interpretation of the test results must be done. We often see chronic Lyme disease labeled and treated as acute Lyme disease. And thirdly, the treatment plan must be comprehensive and properly targeted so as to obtain the best outcome and the restoration of the patient’s health.
At Grace Medical, we have decades of experience treating Lyme disease and we are very Lyme Literate. If we can help you, do not hesitate to contact us.