A Word About Lyme Disease
by Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel BS ES RN
Lyme Disease was first described and recognized as an entity in the mid-seventies, when an unexpectedly statistically large number of children with “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis” were clustered in and around the area of Lyme, and Old Lyme, Connecticut. This began the research in which the causative organism, borrelia burgdorferi, was identified. According to researchers, small deer ticks transmit the organism, a spirochete, to human beings following a tick bite. (Yes, syphilis is another disease caused by a spirochete)
For a number of years we have been told that Lyme Disease is a fairly rare occurrence, although most of us know someone who has been afflicted and treated, or even permanently damaged by this illness. Lyme is generally curable, however, the potential organ damage we may receive in a case which is unrecognized and may remain untreated for a time, can be permanent. According to 2010 CDC figures, the present incidence is considered to be 9.7 new cases per 100,000 people in states where this is now considered to be endemic. These states are Wisconsin, Rhode Island,New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware,Maryland, Minnesota and Massachusetts. It is now possible however, to contract Lyme in any of the US states, and in Canada.
Lyme Disease begins following the bite of an infected tick. It may or may not result in a characteristic bulls eye rash. Certainly,not everyone infected develops the characteristic rash. Later, the infected individual may develop chronic fatigue, lethargy, headache, joint pain with or without swelling which may appear to migrate. (Sometimes your right knee, sometimes your left shoulder etc.) Sometimes there are neurological symptoms. Lyme has the potential to affect every organ system and every organ of the body. If not treated, it may also invade the cardiac conduction system and cause cardiac blocks and arrhythmias.
There remains a fair amount of disagreement even in the medical community as to how Lyme Disease should be treated and followed. There is agreement that anyone with presumptive signs of Lyme, such as migrating joint pain, headaches, etc. should have a Lyme titre, a test looking for antibodies to the organism. However, Lyme tests are often negative, especially early in the course of the disease. Anyone with a positive titre, should have a course of the appropriate antibiotic(s) which must be physician ordered and selected with your other medical history, if any, in mind. Take it exactly as directed, and don’t miss follow up visits. While taking these antibiotics, it’s especially
important to take some probiotics by mouth. Lyme specific antibiotics, and many others can kill the positive organisms in your intestines which are essential for the digestion of food. Most pharmacies carry probiotics over the counter. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one.
For many reasons, a Lyme titre, or test for Lyme antibodies is often negative. This means that we should not develop too strong a sense of security, if we have a negative test, and we have migrating joint pain. Perhaps getting a labtest attwo different labs, or getting two tests a couple of months apart would be best. Many patients with presumptive signs of the disease should be treated despite a negative test.
(See this link for potential reasons for false negatives)
The important things to remember about Lyme is that it can occur almost anywhere within the United States. It can be difficult to diagnose, even with laboratory tests. It is more common than was once believed. Untreated Lyme Disease does damage to a number of places in the body, from the heart to the nervous system. If a case is treated late, the infection may be eradicated, but the damage received, may still be permanent.
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