What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infection that is caused by the bite of deer ticks that harbor Borrelia burgdorferi (or other organisms). The statistics for the disease are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 25,000 confirmed cases in the United States as of 2012. However, Lyme disease is not confined to North America alone; it also affects people in Asia and North Africa. According to the World Health Organization, about 85,000 cases are reported in Europe.
The disease is caused by four types of bacteria: borrelia burgdorferi, borrelia mayonii, borrelia afzelii, and borelia grinii. Borrelia burgolorferi is the bacteria most responsible for the typical flu-like symptoms which indicate the disease has been contracted.
What happens when you have it?
Recognizing the symptoms can be a bit tricky since the bacteria is usually not initiated for 36 hours. The first symptom to appear is a rash. The rash can show up from three to thirty days after the initial bite. It is very distinguishable. It resembles a bulls-eye and expands very gradually. The rash is not usually painful or even itchy, so depending on where it ends up on the body, it may be easy to miss.
The second set of symptoms is more apparent than the rash. These are the flu-like symptoms caused by the borrelia bacteria. These symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, and a secondary rash which is more painful than the initial bulls-eye rash.
As the disease progresses, joint pain may be noticeable to severe. Some people experience neurological problems such as muscle weakness or numbness in the arms and legs. There may also be a partial paralysis of the face known as Bell’s palsy.
Severe and more advanced indications of the disease include problems with the eyes, liver, heart and persistent fatigue.
How do you know you have it?
Since signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are similar to those of other diseases, it could be a bit difficult to diagnose. Some might mistake it for shingles or bacterial cellulitis. There are studies showing that other species of Borrelia can cause similar symptoms but will not respond to conventional treatment for burgdorferi species. These species also come from infected deer ticks, but they do not react with doxycycline within 24 hours.
To get the diagnosis right, the doctor will take a medical history to check which symptoms are present and if there are any tick bites, or if there has been any possible interaction with ticks. The doctor will then perform a full body exam, and the skin will be scrutinized for a rash. If there is a rash, treatment with antibiotics is started. If the doctor strongly suspects Lyme disease, there is a specific diagnostic blood test known as the ELISA test which can be done. This test checks the immune system for antibodies against the bacteria. The ELISA test is followed by another blood test known as the Western blot, which pinpoints antigens that react with Borrelia. Late-stage detection can be confirmed by a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, where fluid from the spine or joint is used to detect genetic material from the bacteria.
How does it cause damage?
There is a recent study that has shown how Borrelia burgdorferi spreads throughout the body. It seems that the bacteria latch onto the insides of the blood vessels and move against the flow of blood. The bacteria form bonds with the blood vessel walls and break the walls off as they travel from one point to another. Researchers have been able to pinpoint BBK32, a bacterial protein, that acts as a glue between the bacteria and the blood vessel walls.
Knowing how the mechanism works may help researchers discover how to prevent the spread of the infection in the brain, heart, and joints. Drugs that specifically target BBK32 are being tested to see if they can effectively stop the spread of the infection. Additionally, researchers are currently looking into numerous drugs’ potential to target similar interactions in other auto-immune diseases.
How is it treated?
If detected early, Lyme disease will resolve completely. Antibiotics such as doxycycline and amoxicillin are given early for up to three weeks. When detected late, an intravenous courses of antibiotics may be given, but such treatment will not prevent the symptoms from appearing.
Bismacine is a very powerful antibiotic and a controversial treatment for the disease. It is not approved by the FDA, nor is it recommended by many doctors. It has been linked to cardio and kidney problems and can be very dangerous.
Many turn to holistic treatments for ongoing symptoms. These treatments may include the following:
- Astragalus- Astragalus is a Chinese herb which protects and nourishes the kidneys, liver, and heart.
- Echinacea- Echinacea is ideal for treatment since it is known to remove venom.
- Parasite Cleanse-There are many types pf parasite cleanses. Make sure to choose one under the guise of a healthcare professional.
- B vitamin complex- B vitamins especially B6, B9, and B12 have been shown to improve nerve damage.
- Colloidal Silver and Chlorophyll- Colloidal Silver has antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It works on an electric level rather than a bacterial level. It works best when taken with chlorophyll since the chlorophyll assists with the penetration and absorption and also helps with oxygen absorption. It is imperative to seek medical or professional advice when using Colloidal Silver. There are many different grades of the product and correct dosing is also vital.
Some IV protocols using Vitamin C, phosphatidylcholine, and glutathione are being used by some integrative medicine doctors. These treatments are not widely accepted or studied in the world of conventional medicine but should be considered, especially by those with debilitating symptoms.
Can it be prevented?
Avoiding any exposure to ticks or their bites guarantees you will not have Lyme disease. However, if you do detect a tick attached to your skin, remove it carefully using tweezers. If you get the tick out within 24 hours, you are in the safe zone. Experts recommend taking a bath an hour or two after being outdoors to get any ticks off your skin. You should also wear insect repellant on exposed skin, and avoid walking through tall grass.
The Autoimmune Connection:
If this condition progresses, the Lyme borreliosis bacteria may be deemed an inflammatory disease affecting multiple organs, the nervous system, and the cardio system. The long-term exposure and tissue involvement may induce an autoimmune response. This prolonged exposure can, of course, lead to a long-term or chronic illness. At this point immune suppressive treatments are necessary. It is possible individuals who are predisposed to autoimmune and inflammatory conditions are more likely to see the disease progress to this level, especially without treatment.
There is much more research that needs to be conducted when it comes to Lyme disease. Many treatments and vaccines are being explored.
It’s hard to fathom that a tiny tick bite can create such havoc in the human body, but even with the tens of thousands of diagnoses of the disease, there are many who have not been diagnosed or misdiagnosed. A case in point is 80-year-old celebrity Kris Kristofferson. Mr. Kristofferson was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 12 years ago and more recently diagnosed and treated for Alzheimer’s due to a failing memory.
He has finally been diagnosed and treated for Lyme’s. It may be the fibromyalgia made him more susceptible to contracting Lyme’s or was also misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, another autoimmune disease.
Now appropriately treated he is no longer on Alzheimer medication, and he is back to leading an active life at the age of 80.
Certainly, a case in point that those suffering from an autoimmune disorder should also be tested for the Lyme bacteria.