Lyme Disease: The Great Masquerade
Common logic says if it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be a duck. This logic is useful in modern medicine for diagnosing conditions. If lab results match the symptoms it confirms a certain diagnosis. However Lyme disease somehow defies this logic.
Thanks to recent government motions Lyme disease has been put in the spotlight, but what exactly is it? Lyme disease refers to a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks which causes multiple symptoms in a stage-like progression. Typically, the first symptom of the infection occurs within 1-4 weeks after a tick bite as a ‘bulls-eye’ rash. The second stage is represented 1-4 months later by flu-like symptoms such as generally feeling unwell, joint pain or even numbness and tingling sensations. Months or years after the initial tick bite, the affected person may experience headaches, joint pain and numbness or tingling, which may even progress to paralysis. This is what is typically regarded as representative of Lyme disease, but it may not be the whole picture.
Lyme disease often mimics the symptoms of many other conditions including Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and others. This complicates accurate diagnosis. In addition, some people will experience no rash, yet others will experience a rash resembling an allergic reaction rather than the typical bulls-eye presentation. The fact that Lyme can masquerade as other conditions and that the typical stage-like presentation doesn’t fit all cases, complicates an accurate diagnosis of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease often mimics the symptoms of many other conditions
We know that a spiral-shaped bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease, but little is said about the multiple co-infections associated with it. That is, the ticks that transmit the Borreliaalso seem to carry many other intruders. These include parasites, viruses and other bacteria which all elicit their own set of symptoms.
Testing is a highly controversial topic. In Ontario, someone suspected to have Lyme disease will first be tested with an ELISA test (short for Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbant Assay). This test may come back negative, for a multitude of reasons. If so, you are often not diagnosed with Lyme disease. If it comes back positive, you will undergo additional testing to confirm the initial result. However, there are many cases where the testing doesn’t confirm the symptoms. Many patients end up visiting specialist after specialist, each diagnosing a different condition or declaring the patient disease-free, while symptoms persist.
Treatment hinges on a proper diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease in Canada you may be offered a short-term antibiotic regimen. There are also a number of herbal protocols which can be used alongside antibiotic treatments. For treatment it’s important to assess for all of the co-infections (not just the Borrelia bacteria) and to take in to account other toxicities in the body such as heavy metals, environmental stresses and dietary sensitivities, as these underlying factors will impede healing.
You’ve heard the saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of Lyme disease, prevention means regular tick-checks after a day outdoors. Tick fashion such as tucking pants into socks is also a must. There are also recommended sprays and natural repellents that may be of use to help keep the ticks at bay. Prompt and proper removal of a tick is necessary information to know.
If you suspect you have Lyme disease, please speak to your doctor or a doctor who is trained to diagnose Lyme disease. You can gain more information from many respected organizations such as ILADS, CANLyme, Ontario Lyme Alliance and Lyme Ontario.
Don’t let Lyme disease get the upper-hand. Get the facts and get treatment.
This blog post is a summary of a Thursday Evening Lecture delivered by Dr Schreiner on April 16, 2015.
Chelsea Schreiner BSc, ND
Licensed Naturopathic Doctor
Founder of River Rock Health
Korman Lifestyle Counselling