• Unrelenting pain
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen joints
  • Rashes
  • Loss of coordination and muscle spasms
  • Intermittent paralysis

This is the story of chronic Lyme disease. Each year thousands go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and are often told their symptoms are in their heads. Lyme disease is escalating amongst humans as well as animals. Today, it is far more common, having increased by nearly 25 % since recording began in 1982.

A Short History

Lyme disease was named after the East Coast town of Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease was first identified in 1975. By 1977, the black-legged tick also known as the deer tick was linked to transmission of the disease.Then in 1982, Willy Burgdorfer, PhD, discovered the bacterium responsible for the infection: Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are released into your blood from the infected tick, while the tick is drinking your blood. Although many still attribute transmission of Lyme disease exclusively to ticks the bacteria can also be spread by other insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and mites. This may be the reason so few Lyme sufferers recall being bitten by a tick.

The Invisible Illness

Many Lyme patients who battle this disease on a daily basis appear healthy. They often look good and their blood work appears normal, but their internal experience is a far different story. Part of the problem with diagnosing and treating Lyme disease is that it is so easy to misdiagnose. It has been called the great imitator because it mimics other disorders such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, ADHD and Alzheimer's disease. The only distinctive hallmark unique to Lyme disease is the bulls eye rash, but this is absent in nearly half of those infected. It is important to know that the Erythema Migrans rash is a clear and unequivocal sign of Lyme disease.

Signs and Symptoms

Besides the rash, some of the first symptoms of Lyme disease may include:

  • Flu-like condition with fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, achiness and fatigue.
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Neurological problems
  • Heart involvement
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Migraines

The Lyme Paradox

One of the reasons blood tests are unreliable as indicators of Lyme infection is that the bacteria has found a way to infect white blood cells. Lab tests rely on the normal function of these cells to produce the antibodies they measure. If white cells are infected they don't respond to an infection appropriately. The worse the infection the less likely it will show up on a blood test. In order for Lyme tests to be useful the disease has to be treated first. Once the immune system begins to respond normally then the antibodies show up. This treatment before diagnosis is called the Lyme Paradox.

Treatments For Lyme Disease

Oral antibiotics are the standard treatment for early-stage Lyme disease. These usually include doxycycline or amoxicillin or cefuroxime. A 14- to 21-day course of antibiotics is usually recommended, but some studies suggest that courses lasting 10 to 14 days are equally effective.

Intravenous antibiotics are recommended if the disease involves the central nervous system. This is effective in eliminating infection, although it may take some time to recover from the symptoms. After treatment, a small number of people still experience some symptoms, such as muscle aches and fatigue. The cause of these continuing symptoms is unknown, and treating with more antibiotics doesn't help. Good dietary changes, stress reduction techniques and any other therapies that balance or strengthen immune response help in the healing journey.

The bacteria, Borrelia, responsible for Lyme disease, seems to be upping the ante. Many doctors are suggesting their patients with Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis be tested for Borrelia. Those are all diseases with no known cause. Could Lyme disease be the missing link?