Lyme disease: what to look out for
Lyme disease has become one of the fastest growing, vector borne infectious diseases in the United States, with an estimated 300,000 new victims every year. Sometimes called the “great imitator”, it is often misdiagnosed as other conditions such as MS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The bacteria that causes this illness is borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete that can spiral its way deep into the tissues and cross the blood/brain barrier into the central nervous system. If not caught early, it can evade even long-term antibiotics and there is no cure. It is carried by ticks.
The worst affected areas in the United States for Lyme disease are New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, although cases have now been reported in almost all states.
In a classic case, the patient will recall having been bitten by a tick and a target-like rash, erythema migrans, will develop at the bite site. However, fewer than 50% remember the bite or get the rash and this leads to a lot of missed diagnoses. The first set of symptoms to develop are flu-like. Along with chills, fever and headache there is typically muscle pain, aching joints and fatigue. Neurological conditions such as Bell’s Palsy, tingling, shaking and numbness may also occur. Meningitis and cardiac disturbances are possible complications.
In the later stage, which can be months or years after the initial bite, symptoms can include memory loss, brain fog, arthritis, apathy and depression and some sufferers are bed-bound with long-standing musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. The longer Lyme disease is left untreated, the more damage it will do. This third stage is known as Chronic Lyme or sometimes as Post-Treatment Lyme (PTLD). Sadly there are numerous documented instances where patients have been accused of hypochondria and left in chronic pain with little or no help or understanding. Some are told to seek psychiatric assistance. There is a great deal of confusion and misinformation about Lyme disease. This has made it a highly controversial subject. Veracity of the tests is also cause for much scrutiny and debate.
The fact that several well-known celebrities have now been diagnosed with Lyme disease has drawn media attention to the condition. Actor Kris Kristofferson recently revealed that he had been falsely diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when it was in fact Lyme. Fellow actors, Alec Baldwin and Ben Stiller; singer Avril Lavigne; author Amy Tan and former child star Ashley Olsen have all gone public with their experience of having it. They have helped to increase public awareness of this debilitating disease. Singer Daryl Hall of the band “Hall and Oates” has been quoted as saying that “It can make you want to die.”
Chiropractors are able to relieve some of the later stage symptoms of Lyme disease. Manipulations can help to ease aches and pains and may also trigger positive reactions in the immune system. In particular, the correction of any spinal misalignment can ease pressure on the nerves. Many patients turn to herbal and natural supplements and protocols, either as well as, or instead of, the traditional antibiotics.