Lyme Disease – Acute & Chronic Considerations

Who would think that hiking and being out in the woods could be so hazardous? Each year, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC. However, these are only the cases reported by physicians who were able to diagnose the condition and as you will read further in this article, diagnosis can be very difficult. his makes the actual number of cases much higher due to under-reporting.

Lyme disease is a multi-system disorder secondary to an infection by borrellia burgdorferi, a bacterial spirochete. It is considered a vector borne illness since borrellia is transmitted from one host (small mammals and birds) to another (in this case humans) via a tic bite. Lyme Disease and the various coinfections that can accompany it is a very contentious subject in medicine. Many medical experts will allow that there is an acute infection of the borrellia spirochete, but most do not accept the possibility that there’s a chronic form of the infection and illness. Acute or chronic you should know the signs and symptoms so that you can contact your physician immediately so as to not delay treatment. Additionally, be aware of strategies for preventing a tick bite in the first place.

Signs & Symptoms of Acute Lyme Disease

Headaches and neck stiffness

Fever & Chills

Arthritis with swollen joints and/or spine pain

Erythema migranes otherwise known as a bulls-eye rash

Fatigue

Swollen lymph nodes

Heart Palpitations

Shortness of breath

Memory loss

Facial palsy

Signs & Symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease

Fatigue

Abdominal pain and bowel changes

Memory loss or cognitive impairment

Numbness or tingling in extremities

Sensory distortion of skin, burning in hands or feet

“Wandering” symptoms

Light or sound sensitivity

Dizziness or vertigo

Sleep disturbances

Rheumatism

Cardiac problems: MVP, heart block, palpitations

Balance and coordination problems

Newly acquired dyslexia

Endocrine dysruption: hypothyroid, irregular menses, etc.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis can be very difficult due to poor sensitivity of lab testing. For this reason diagnosis often times will be made using signs and symptoms alone. 56% of patients with Lyme disease test negative using the two-tiered testing system recommended by the CDC, giving laboratory testing a very high false-negative rate.

Diagnosis via clinical assessment (i.e. signs and symptoms) is not easy either. There are a small collection of medical conditions known as the “great imitators”, because of their varied symptoms they may look like some other medical conditions. Lyme disease is considered one of the “great imitators” as it’s often confused with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic inflammatory response syndrome, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, and many more.

Pathognomonic (characteristic symptom) symptoms of Lyme disease will help the clinician differentiate between other possible illnesses. For example: Lyme disease tends to have pain that “wanders” around the body, one day it will be on the left side of the body and the next the right. Erythema migranes (“Bull’s Eye rash) would also be considered pathognomonic, unfortunately, the majority of patient’s suffering from Lyme disease never even remember being bitten by a tick.

Treatment

There are various types of treatments for Lyme disease. For an acute infection there will typically be a short course of antibiotics, at the time of this writing doxycycline for 2-3 weeks is generally recommended. While we tend to “shy” away from antibiotics, a short course of doxycycline with a gut rebuilding protocol shortly after isn’t a bad deal.

Chronic Lyme disease is a completely different story. Some patient will benefit greatly from doing the acute Lyme protocol above, but in my experience most practitioners who treat Lyme regularly use much longer antibiotic protocols. This will leave most with the alleviation of Lyme symptoms, but will suffer from the ill effects of antibiotics once treatment has ended. A better options may be treating Lyme using herbal therapies. A very effective treatment is the combination of four different herbals called; Samento, Banderol, Cumanda, and Burbur. These herbs will be taken in various dosages over the course of several months. This type of treatment should only be done under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

Interestingly, not everyone infected with the borrellia spirochete will manifest symptoms of Lyme disease. This is most likely a combination of genetics (can be manipulated through diet), individual immune function (total load or how much is the immune system’s attention divided), and overall health (terrain: infections will grow if the internal environment supports it). Considering this, prevention should include optimizing overall health.

If you’re looking for Naturopathic, Holistic, and Alternative Health Care options come see us in the beautiful Fairhaven district in Bellingham, WA.