Lyme Disease: 4 Symptoms To Watch For As Tick Epidemic Spreads

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 an estimated 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, and the prevalence is rising.

Since national surveillance began in 1982, the number of annual Lyme cases reported has increased nearly 25-fold.2 The disease is also spreading out geographically.3

Between 1993 and 1997, 43 counties across the US had a high incidence of Lyme disease. By 2012, the number of hotspots had skyrocketed to 182. As reported by Time Magazine:4

“‘Lyme disease is not only becoming more rampant in its normal hotspot of the northeast United States, it’s spreading across the country,’ a new report5 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.

‘Over time, the number of counties identified as having high incidence of Lyme disease in the northeastern states increased more than 320 percent,’ researchers write…

They also note that the disease is appearing in states where it has never been recorded before. One big reason why Lyme disease is spiking, according to the CDC report: climate change.”6

Eliminating Predators Have Allowed Lyme Disease to Spread and Become More Prevalent

While deer usually gets the blame for spreading tick-borne disease, rodents are actually the primary threat. According to Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at a Lyme disease research center:7

“The resurgence of deer population is an overblown factor. Our research suggests that white-footed mice are more important numerically. Basically, mice are a fantastic host for both the tick and [the bacteria that causes Lyme].”

Ticks are not born with the Lyme spirochetes. It picks up the bacteria when feeding on an infected host.8 Ostfeld’s research indicates that white-footed mice infect 75-95 percent of larval ticks that feed on them, while deer only infect about one percent.

Urban sprawl and hunting has eliminated many of the mice’s natural predators, allowing populations to grow, and with them comes infected ticks. This year, ticks are epidemic in certain areas of the US, including Illinois.

The CDC has identified high-risk counties in 17 states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease refers to illnesses transferred by biting or blood-sucking insects. The bacterium responsible for Lyme infection is Borrelia burgdorferi,9 a “cousin” to the spirochete bacterium that causes syphilis.

Many still attribute transmission of Lyme disease exclusively to ticks (in the US, the black-legged deer tick, Ixodes scapularis; in Europe, the castor bean tick, I. ricinus.).10

But according to Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt — one the leading authorities on Lyme disease — the bacteria can also be spread by other biting or blood-sucking insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and mites.

Common side effects of tick bites include an itchy “bull’s eye” rash, pain, fever, and inflammation.

However, you don’t have to get the hallmark “bull’s eye” as this rash occurs only in about half of those infected, so absence of such a rash does not exclude the possibility of a tick bite. Symptoms of Lyme disease typically start out with:

  • Unrelenting fatigue
  • Recurring fever
  • Headaches / migraines
  • Achy muscles and/or joints

If left untreated, the disease may progress to muscle spasms, loss of motor coordination, and even intermittent paralysis, meningitis, or heart problems. For a more complete list of symptoms, refer to the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance.11Lymedisease.org has also created a printable Symptom Checklist.12

The B. burgdorferi spirocheteis shaped like a corkscrew, which allows it to burrow into and hide in a variety of your body’s tissues. It can also live intracellularly (inside your cells), which allows it to evade antibiotics.

For this reason, some doctors recommend giving antibiotics along with Plaquenil in order to change the intracellular pH.13 The organisms can also take up residence in biofilms, or in an encoated “cyst” form.

All of these different morphologies and clever evasion capabilities explain why Lyme infection can cause such wide-ranging multisystem involvement and why treatment is so difficult.

This also explains why recurrence of symptoms can still occur after standard antibiotic protocols. Complicating matters further, ticks can also infect you with a number of other disease-causing organisms, such as Bartonella, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Babesia.

These organisms can travel with Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme) and each organism causes a different set of symptoms. According to Dr. Klinghardt, many Lyme patients have one or more of these co-infections, which may or may not respond to any given treatment.

The Lyme bacterium has yet another stealthy survival mechanism. While most bacteria need iron to survive, the Lyme bacterium has adapted to survive without iron, using manganese instead.

This allows it to evade your body’s natural immune system defenses that destroy pathogens by cutting off their iron supply.14

If you’re looking for a film about Lyme disease I recommend UNDER OUR SKIN. This film has changed the landscape of the Lyme epidemic, bringing unprecedented awareness in an engaging and accessible way. UNDER OUR SKIN exposes a hidden story of medical and scientific malfeasance and neglect.

Why Lab Tests Are Unreliable for Diagnosing Lyme Disease

 

The simplest presentation of Lyme disease is the orthopedic forms, which typically affect the larger joints. When the microbes and the associated immune reactions are situated in the connective tissue, the infection presents as a “vague, dispersed pain,” which oftentimes ends up being misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia by conventional doctors. In fact, Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and doctors quite often get it wrong.15

Lyme is known as “the great imitator,” as it can mimic many other disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.16 When nothing unusual shows up on blood tests, some patients are even told their problems are “all in their head,” and may be referred to a psychologist.

One of the reasons blood tests are so unreliable as indicators of Lyme infection is that the spirochete is capable of infecting your white blood cells. Lab tests rely on the normal function of these cells to produce the antibodies they measure. If your white cells are infected, they will not respond to an infection appropriately. Interestingly, the worse your Borrelia infection is, the less likely it will show up on a blood test.

In order for Lyme tests to be useful, you actually have to be treated first. Once your immune system begins to respond normally, only then will the antibodies show up on a blood test. This is called the “Lyme Paradox” — you have to be treated before a proper diagnosis can be made.

I recommend the specialized lab called IGeneX because they test for more outer surface proteins (bands), and can often detect Lyme while standard blood tests cannot. IGeneX also tests for a few strains of co-infections such as Babesia and Erhlichia. That said, a negative on the IGeneX test for these co-infections does not necessarily mean you are not infected, as there are many more strains than tests can currently detect.

The Controversy over Treatment for Chronic Lyme

While most doctors now acknowledge that Lyme disease is real, controversy still remains over whether or not Lyme can persist and become chronic — and if so, whether extended, long-term treatment with antibiotics is effective.17 Doctors who belong to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) do not believe in chronic Lyme and typically will not treat a Lyme patient beyond four weeks.

Doctors belonging to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society18 (ILADS), on the other hand, do believe Lyme can persist and are willing to treat you beyond the four- week period. Insurance companies typically will not pay for extended use of antibiotics though, as they follow the guidelines of the IDSA.

Personally, I find it baffling that physicians would deny the possibility of ongoing infection when these organisms are known to operate by stealth, and are capable of evading detection and most standard treatment protocols. I can tell you first hand, from my experience with my girlfriend Erin who was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2013 after suffering from a range of hard-to-pin-down symptoms for 14 years, chronic Lyme does exist.

The good news is that no matter how long you’ve had it, there is hope for a full recovery. A new Lyme research center attached to the rheumatology division at Hopkins Bayview Medical Center has also been created, specifically to investigate chronic Lyme. As reported by BDN Maine News:19

“Dr. John Aucott, a leading Lyme researcher tapped to direct the Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center… said his new affiliation with Hopkins will bring fresh attention, and resources, to the issue. He and others will look to determine if the infection is hiding or, as he hypothesizes, is developing into a new disorder, possibly an autoimmune one like rheumatoid arthritis. He and others will explore if there is a genetic component, an underlying condition or other bacteria or viruses involved.”

 

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *