Lyme disease is a bacterial illness caused by a spirochete, or a spiral-shaped bacteria that can drill into cell walls and tissues, called Borrelia burgdorferi; and, it is the most prevalent vector-borne illness.
Ticks are carriers of the bacteria, and if they attach to the skin of a person, they can transmit the disease. Ticks can hide in hard-to-see areas, like the scalp, or they can be as small as a mustard seed, so a person may have no idea that a tick bit them.
Besides Borrelia burgdorferi, ticks often carry co-infections, like Babesiosis, a parasitic disease that can cause muscle pain and nausea, or Bartonella, a bacteria which can hide in red blood cells and cause headaches, rashes, and fatigue. While ticks can live in many regions, people living in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the U.S. are at a higher risk for getting the disease—especially those who do lots of outdoor activities.
Lyme disease is called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms can be similar to so many other conditions, like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis. Even Lyme blood tests can present false negatives which can make narrowing down the illness even more difficult.
Symptoms usually appear after a month after a tick bite, however, many patients develop the hallmark rash: erythmia migrans—or a rash that looks like a bull’s eye. If a patient doesn’t get a rash, it can be harder to identify the Lyme disease and symptoms can include major fatigue, fever, chills, cognitive problems, photophobia, headaches, stiff neck, creaking/swollen joints, brain fog, swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, sensitivity to noise, tremors, anxiety, memory difficulties, speech difficulties, heart complications, and the like.
Lyme disease is an extremely controversial condition and there are many routes for treatment. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) says that it can easily be remedied; however, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) says that the blood tests are not always dependable and that a month of antibiotics may not completely eradicate the bacteria if it isn’t caught early.
If a person is able to spot the tick early, he or she should remove it completely with tweezers and put it in a sealed bag to take to the doctor for testing. In these early stages, the person should also do a course of antibiotics—usually doxycycline. If a patient already presents serious cardiac or neurological symptoms, then a doctor may recommend a stronger dosage or IV treatment.
If Lyme is not caught on time, symptoms may last for many months—or even years. Although colloquially known as “chronic Lyme,” some people develop what’s called “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS) even after a recommended course of antibiotics. Some people with PTLDS may need to seek out alternative therapies, like herbal protocols, acupuncture, or rife machine usage. Some choose to seek out Lyme-literate doctors (LLMDs) for treatments that may not be approved by other medical institutions. While some of these alternative treatments can help ease symptoms, it is recommended that those with PTLDS do thorough research before committing to a therapy.
Lastly, at-home remedies like epsom salt baths can help to ease joint and muscle pain. Following a graded-exercise program and cutting out foods that can cause inflammation may also help those with Lyme.