Lyme & Associated Diseases
What is Lyme Disease?
In 1975 a surprisingly large number of children living in and around Lyme, Connecticut were diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Further investigation by researchers lead to some important discoveries:
- A majority of affected children lived around and played in the wooded areas where ticks were known to reside.
- Several of the children were reported to have experienced a rash on the skin prior to the onset of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Many reported being bitten by a tick in the same spot as the rash.
Those investigating this unusual outbreak concluded that deer tick carrying Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria were the reason for the rise of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis in Lyme. Afterward, the disease became known by the name of the location of its discovery.
Clinical Diagnosis of Lyme
Lyme disease is often called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms resemble a number of other diseases. Regularly misdiagnosed, Lyme disease has been confused with arthritis, autism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lupus and bipolar disorder. As a result, Lyme disease requires a clinical diagnosis of symptoms followed by lab work to support and validate the physician’s diagnosis.
Testing for Lyme
There isn’t a good, reliable method for testing for the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in the system; however the gold standard test is currently done by a lab called Igenex. Dr. Jena Peterson will run a series of labs based on symptoms to determine if Lyme or other tick borne illnesses are a causative factor of your symptoms.
Some physicians may use the following diagnostic tools in conjunction with clinical diagnosis:
- ELISA Screening: This test fails 35% of the time to accurately identify the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
- Western Blot: This test must include the reading of all bands associated with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, including bands 31 and 34 for accuracy. Some laboratories exclude these bands, which may result in a false negative. In addition, the changing nature of the spirochete organism can produce a false negative.
Symptoms of Lyme
If you suspect you’ve been infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria watch for the following symptoms:
- Joint pain
- A red “bulls-eye” known as the erythema migrant (EM) may appear anywhere from 3 to 30 days after being bitten by an infected tick. Tanned or dark sink may see something resembling a circular bruise at the bite site. It is important to note that the rash may be atypical (looking nothing like a bulls-eye) and that an infected individual may not experience a rash at all.
Although the flu-like symptoms may resolve quickly, they should be taken seriously. Seek immediate medical attention in order to avoid further spread of infection and a broader array of symptoms.
If treatment is delayed the following symptoms may occur:
- Aching, stiff neck
- Severe fatigue
- Numbness, tingling in extremities
These symptoms suggest that the peripheral nervous system has become infected. If the disease is allowed to progress, infection of the central nervous system may result and may lead to mental disorders.
Treatment of Lyme Disease
Receiving treatment from a trained medical professional within the first three weeks of being bitten by an infected tick offers the greatest chance of a full and speedy recovery. For this reason, it is important that you not delay in seeking medical help if you believe you’ve been infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
Although there is some disagreement regarding treatment, there seems to be general agreement among homeopaths, naturopaths and mainstream medical practitioners that some form of oral antibiotics is necessary for full recovery. Doxycycline, Amoxicillin and Cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin) are the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in the treatment of Lyme Disease.
Chronic Lyme Disease Controversy
Studies have discovered that as few as 17% of patients with confirmed Lyme disease recall ever being bitten by a tick. Often, these patients are seen only after the disease has progressed, affecting the central nervous system. Their symptoms are often confused for other illnesses, resulting in misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment.
Additionally, some patients who were treated with oral antibiotics during the early stages of Lyme disease continue to suffer with symptoms for weeks, months and sometimes even years afterward.
Unfortunately the medical community is divided in its approach to treating those suffering from what many refer to as Chronic Lyme Disease. Some patients have had their health restored after extensive use of antibiotics; however such long-term use of antibiotics is known to damage other organs and functions of the body. Therefore, some medical practitioners believe it is negligent to prescribe extended use of antibiotics while others believe it is negligent to force patients to continue to suffer.
Pediatric Lyme Disease & Gestational Lyme disease
Pediatric Lyme disease and gestational Lyme disease are unique and special cases. Dr. Jena has completed a one week preceptorship with world-renouned pediatric Lyme specialist Dr. Charles Ray Jones, MD. She is expanding her practice to include Pediatric and Gestational Lyme disease patients. For further information, please call our front desk to schedule and appointment.
Other Tick-Borne Illnesses
There are a number of different ticks throughout the U.S. and the world, each carrying different types of potentially disease-causing bacteria. The deer tick (or blacklegged tick), the Lone Star tick, and the Dog tick are those most often associated with disease here in the U.S.
The diseases induced by the transmission of their various bacteria include:
- Anaplasmosis is known as HGA and is spread by deer tick or blacklegged tick carrying the anaplasma hagocytophilum bacteria. Symptoms resemble those commonly associated with flu or cold including fever, headaches and chills. HGA can be life threatening to the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
- Babesiosis is transmitted by deer tick carrying Babesia microti, a protozoan parasite. Symptoms resemble malaria and include loss of appetite, loss of energy, chills, fever and disturbed mental function.
- Colorado Tick Fever (or Mountain Tick Fever) is a viral disease that is transmitted by infected adult wood tick, also known as the American Dog tick. Over 90% of CTF cases originate in Colorado, Utah, and Montana. Symptoms include fever, headache, and chills and though mild, can be life threatening depending on the age and health of the patient.
- Human Monocytic Ehrilichiosis (HME) is an acute disease transmitted by lone star tick carrying the Ehrlichia chaffeensis bacteria. A rash may appear though not always at the site of the tick bite. Symptoms are often mild, though can be life threatening to some and include chills, pain, fever, disturbed mental function and nausea.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is one of the more serious tick-borne illnesses within the United States. Transmitted by wood tick, American Dog tick or cayenne tick, the disease often leads to hospitalization and can be fatal. Symptoms include fever, spotted rash, vomiting and loss of appetite.
- Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI) is transmitted by lone star tick carrying the Borrelia lonestari bacteria. Symptoms resemble those associated with Lyme disease including the presence of an erythema mirgran – or red rash. A lesion often appears and patients frequently report feelings of fatigue.
- Tick Paralysis is commonly associated with livestock; however there is concern for pets and children under the age of ten. This condition results when an egg-laden female passes neurotoxins while feeding on its host. The disease is transmitted by more than 40 species of tick and results in tick induced paralysis. Removing the tick often reduces the symptoms.
- Tick Borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF) is transmitted by soft tick species carrying any of the following bacteria: Borellia hermsii, Borellia turicatae, or Borellia parkerii. Symptoms include recurring fever, chills, headache, joint pain and vomiting.
- Tularemia, sometimes referred to as rabbit fever, is transmitted by lone star tick, American dog tick, or Rocky Mountain wood tick carrying Francisella tularensis bacteria. It may also be transmitted by contact with infected animals or their carcasses. As a result, hunters may become infected with the disease during the winter months. Symptoms include chills, headache, dry cough, weakness, diarrhea, sore eyes and joint pain.