Being from the Northeastern United States we are very aware of how prevalent Lyme disease has become and in tune to the realization that it is on the rise. We now know that it is not only an acute issue but also, very often, a chronic disease. Someone having an immune reaction to the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is passed through tick and possibly insect bites, causes Lyme disease. Both deer ticks and black-legged ticks are known to carry the infectious bacteria.
The organism Borrelia burgdorferi is a spirochete that wreaks havoc on the human body as it corkscrews its way into tissue as well as travels in the blood stream. The significant risk of this disease is leaving it untreated, allowing it to affect many vital systems in your body. Lyme disease symptoms can mimic many other diseases, making a quick diagnosis very difficult. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that the typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic rash called erythema migrans. They warn that if left untreated the infection can spread to the joints, the heart and the nervous system. More chronic symptoms include severe joint pain and swelling, facial palsy, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, CNS inflammation, memory problems, nerve pain and tingling or numbness.
What I’ve learned through my functional medicine practice is that there is no “typical” presentation for Lyme disease and it should be considered in many, if not all, chronic cases. With current testing through ELISA and the Western blot test it is said by experts that 69 out of 100 patients may go untreated. There have been great strides in the world of immunology working to make continued improvements to our current testing.
Treatment may include the use of antibiotics, other medications to manage symptoms, herbs and supplementation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and immune system support. Importantly, if you are being treated for Lyme disease you want to support yourself with a healthcare professional that understands the complications that go along with treatment, how to monitor for Jarisch-Herxheimer reactions* and be able to manage the detoxification needs of your body through this process.
Please take precaution to prevent yourself from experiencing the many faces of Lyme disease and practice safe prevention methods such as natural bug spray or insect repellent, perform daily tick checks on yourself and your pets, wash clothes immediately after being outside and improve immune system strength.
*The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is associated with the treatment of Lyme disease. It occurs within 1-12 hours of treatment, as large numbers of the bacterium are killed off. The reaction usually resolves within a day. It’s important to recognize the symptoms and that they are not a reaction to the antibiotic.