As a nutritional therapist, I’ve witnessed some pretty sad situations, but probably the worst has been seeing children and teenagers so completely debilitated that they virtually stay in bed for years. The cause of this debility? Chronic Lyme disease. What’s even sadder is that sufferers often don’t get the recognition or help they need.
Lyme disease is named after the town, Lyme, in Connecticut, in the US, where it was first discovered. It is thought that ticks are the main vectors of the disease – an infected tick latches onto you, starts feeding on your blood but at the same time passes on disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens. The US Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 300,000 cases are diagnosed in the US every year but some commercial laboratories have put this figure at nearly half a million. These are just the cases that are diagnosed. Laboratory testing is notoriously unreliable and many infected people are told they don’t have Lyme disease.
The disease can literally affect any system in the body so symptoms are very wide ranging, including joint pain, severe fatigue, neurological problems, headaches, and gut issues. Lyme disease is called the great imitator and can be misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, even autism, and at worst, patients can sometimes be told it’s all their head.
Many doctors believe that you have to display a ‘bull’s-eye’ style rash in order to have it. In fact, more than 50% of sufferers don’t get a rash and most are not even aware they have had a tick bite.
Lyme can be easily treated with a short dose of antibiotics. Unfortunately, many people are given a 30-day course of antibiotics and around 40% of those treated in this way suffer a relapse, according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. Much longer doses of antibiotics are necessary, often with accompanying herbal treatments, to really beat the disease and prevent it from becoming chronic.
If your test results are negative you do not have the disease. There are over 300 strains of Borrelia burgdorferi worldwide making testing very difficult. The doctor should also look at clinical signs and symptoms.
Lyme is restricted to certain parts of the US and doesn’t exist in many countries. None of us live in isolation – we travel, TICKS TRAVEL, our pets travel, wild animals migrate. The thinking now is that ticks may not be the only carriers and that pets and animals such as migrating birds may carry the disease.
Lyme disease is not common but is something that you should be aware of. Early signs of infection, which can appear between 2-30 days of being bitten, include fever, fatigue, headaches and other flu-like symptoms, and sometimes a rash. If you suspect you have been bitten by an infected tick, it’s important to get it diagnosed and treated quickly. If you have Lyme disease or suspect you have Lyme disease and are not happy with your diagnosis or treatment, contact your local Lyme disease association who may be able to help you.