Lyme disease was not officially recognized and diagnosed in the United States until 1975. While doctors have been treating it since the mid-1970s, there are still many misconceptions and confusion surrounding this dangerous and life-altering virus.
For many who contract the virus, the symptoms are immediate; for others, it has taken many years to pinpoint the source of pains, aches, neuropathy, and even confused mental states.
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. While these ticks were initially confined to the Northeastern United States, Lyme disease has continued to spread and can now be found in every state except Hawaii.
The symptoms of Lyme disease vary according to how long the disease is active in the body. People who are bitten by an infected tick may notice the following symptoms in the first 30 days:
- Bull’s-eye rash with one or more rings around a central red circle
- Exhaustion or steady fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint and muscle flu-like aches
People who do not develop a rash and are not diagnosed in the first 30 days will notice other symptoms as time goes on. Untreated Lyme disease symptoms after the first month can include:
- Neck stiffness
- Joint pain and swelling
- Migraines or prolonged severe headaches
- Shortness of breath
- Facial palsy
- Nerve pain and neuropathy
- Carditis of the heart
- Inflammation of the spinal cord or in the brain
Lyme disease is transmitted when an infected tick bites and transmits the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria through its saliva, usually over the course of 24-36 hours. In the Northeast, many of the species of tick that transmit Lyme are called “deer ticks.”
If you walk through woods or tall grass without proper protection, these ticks will latch onto exposed skin. These ticks are now so prevalent that you can find them in mowed and manicured lawns in the Northeast.
Testing and Diagnosis
Lyme is one of the most mysterious diseases of the last century. Due to multiple symptoms it may contribute to, it can be easily confused with other ailments, and therefore called “Great Imitator.” Lyme is very difficult to diagnose. There is currently no specific blood or saliva test for Lyme disease. This is why many doctors are confused by their patients’ many symptoms, leading many to misdiagnosis their patients with other ailments.
To test for Lyme disease, doctors first do a physical examination of their patients and a comprehensive medical history. Since the “bull’s-eye” rash do not always present, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when the symptoms started and their true cause.
Doctors take a blood sample, which they analyze for an increase of antibodies which indicates the presence of an infection. However, because antibodies can take weeks to build up to measurable levels, initial tests may come back normal. There are two labs that may provide great probability if a person has chronic Lyme, but not always definite. These labs are Igenex and DNA Connexions.
If Lyme disease is caught early, in most instances use of doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime axetil might work well. These antibiotics are taken for 2-3 weeks, and most people usually recover completely from their symptoms. In addition, the use of Glutathione with natural antimicrobial and blood cleansing such as Burdock, Olive Leaf, Berberine, Cat’s Claw and homeopathics. In the delayed diagnosis of Lyme disease, these treatments sometimes have to be administered for much longer.
Even in cases that are successfully treated, persistent fatigue, dizziness, and muscle aches can continue for six months more. This is known as chronic Lyme disease, or “Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome.”
There are steps you can take to prevent ticks from getting onto your skin or getting re-infected with Lyme disease from a subsequent tick bite.
Wear light clothing and ensure there is no exposed skin when you are walking through woods and tall grass. Check your clothing and skin for ticks thoroughly when you arrive home. Some naturopaths also recommend taking oregano oil supplements daily during tick season. This makes the blood smell unfavorable to ticks and mosquitoes.