Lyme Disease: Could A Little Tick Be Causing Big Problems? | Symptom Checklist for Lyme-Associated Disease
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Your story might go something like this, “I have been to several doctors, had numerous blood tests and X-rays, but they can’t seem to find what’s wrong.”  You complain of many symptoms that seem unrelated and involve multiple systems and organs of the body.  Perhaps you have some fatigue, neurological, orthopedic, cardiac, gastrointestinal, endocrine, or psychiatric symptoms.  Your doctor concludes that with so many “vague” complaints and “normal” testing results, it must be all in your head.  He says, ”There is no condition that could explain all of these complaints.”

But wait, beware of the great imitator!  Lyme disease is on the rise.  This tick-borne disease, although originally identified in outbreaks in Lyme, Connecticut, has now been reported in all 48 states.  Borrelia burgdorferi is the spirochete which causes Lyme disease.  It gets transmitted by the bite of a variety of ticks, and can be accompanied by numerous other infectious agents.  Unfortunately Borrelia is capable of causing terrible problems in humans if not diagnosed and treated.  Borrelia can even be transferred through the placenta to the unborn baby.  Some authorities think mosquitoes or other vectors may also carry and transmit Borrelia through their bites.

But you say, “I don’t remember a tick bite or the classic ‘bull’s eye’ rash.”  Less than 50 percent of patients can recall these events.  And if you do suspect a tick bite and ask your doctor for diagnostic testing, he will typically use first an Elisa test and secondarily the Western Blot.
The Elisa test misses 35 percent of culture-proven Lyme disease and tests for none of the co-infections.  The Western Blot often misses 20 to 30 percent of culture-proven Lyme disease.

According to Tom Grier, Executive Director of the Minnesota Insect-Borne Education Council, these tests look for antibodies which the human host has formed against the invading Borrelia organism.  But he points out four common reasons why, even with such laboratory testing, the organism can be missed:

  1. Borrelia can escape detection by turning into a cyst. Therefore, the immune system cannot see it and does not form antibodies against it.
  2. The antibodies necessary for detection are bound up into immune complexes.
  3. Antibodies may not be present due to the early use of antibiotics or steroids that interfere with the immune system forming antibodies.
  4. Antibody levels drop to very low levels often late into the disease.

So how would you know if Lyme disease is the real cause of your symptoms?   Since Lyme is difficult to diagnose, it requires a physician skilled in recognizing the patterns of the disease and using the most accurate tests.  The symptoms vary greatly.  Some people start with a flu-like pattern of headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pains, numbness, tingling and fever, which may last hours or days, disappear and then reappear.  Some victims initially have no symptoms at all--while the Borrelia stays in the body, gradually causing a variety of symptoms.

There are other testing options, which are used by physicians skilled in working with Lyme disease.  Three specialty laboratories have designed tests that can increase the likelihood of detection up to

90 percent. Some of the labs utilize a specially designed Western Blot test that looks for multiple sub-species of Borrelia, not just the one species in the standard test.   These labs also use more of the “bands” that could reveal the presence of the disease and interpret the results in a different manner, allowing more people to get diagnosed and treated.  There are also other laboratories with special tests that may detect the presence of Lyme.

Despite the more accurate testing available, it is critical to realize that no current tests are yet considered completely accurate, and the physician may have to rely on his clinical judgment to help diagnose Lyme.  The Center for Disease Control says, “The diagnosis of Lyme disease is based primarily on clinical findings, and it is often appropriate to treat patients solely on the basis of objective signs of a known exposure.”

Typically, treatment for Lyme disease has entailed a regimen of multiple antibiotics for lengthy periods of time, since the Borrelia organism is very difficult to eradicate.  However, we at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine have also found the Cowden comprehensive program using powerful, sequentially applied herbal remedies to be highly effective. This program eliminates not only the Borrelia organism but also the equally troublesome co-infections from other organisms.  Although both the antibiotic approach and the Cowden herbal regimen are effective, our environmentally sensitive patients are better able to tolerate and benefit from the non-drug program.

If you know that you have been or could have been exposed to the Borrelia spirochete and would like more information about Lyme-associated Disease, contact The Center at (843) 572-1600.

References:
Bole, JF, Jr and JR Murph. (1992) Congenital infections and the nervous system.  Pediatr Clin North Am 39(4):669-90.

Center for Disease Control website:  www.cdc.gov/

Donta, ST, Tetracycline therapy in chronic Lyme disease.  Chronic Infectious Diseases, 1997; 25 (Suppl 1): 552.56.

Fallon BA, et al. Repeated antibiotic treatment in chronic Lyme disease, Journal of Spirochetal and Tick-borne Diseases, 1999; 6 (Fall/Winter):94-101.

Fried MD, et al.  Borrelia burdorferi persists in the gastrointestinal tract of children and adolescents with Lyme Disease, JNL of Spirochetal and Tick-borne Diseases, Spring/Summer 2002; 9:11-15.

Fitzpatrick JE, et.al Chronic septic arthritis caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. Clin Ortho 1993 Dec;(297):238-41.

Horowitz, RI. Lyme disease and Babesiosis:  new therapeutic options for chronic persistent disease, (Abstract). 13th International Scientific Conference on Lyme Disease and Other Tick-Borne Disorders, March 2000, Farmington, CT. 

Horowitz, RI, Rodner D. Bartonella henselae: limitations of serological testing: evaluation of Elisa and PCR testing in a cohort of Lyme disease patients and implications for treatment (Abstract). 16th International Scientific Conference on Lyme Disease and Other Tick-Borne Disorders, May 2003, USA.

Horowitz, RI. Chronic Lyme disease: a symptom complex of multiple co-infections: new diagnostic and treatment protocols (Abstract). 12th International Scientific Conference on Lyme Disease and Other Spirochetal Disorders, April 1999, New York City.

Vojdani, Aristo, Ph.D., MT and Monro, Jean A., MB, BS, MRCS, LRCP, FAAEM.  Infections, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme Disease and Autoimmune Arthritis: Evidence of serological cross reactivity between agents and human tissues, AAEM 41st Annual Meeting, Hilton Head, SC.

Panel of speakers. Lyme and Other Tick Borne Diseases:  Seeking Answers through Science. International Lyme and Associated Disease Society Annual Meeting 2006, Philadelphia, PA.

Nicholson, Garth L., Ph.D. Evidence for Mycoplasma, Chlamydia pneumonia, and HHV-6 co-infections in the blood of patients with autistic spectrum disorder. AAEM 41st Annual Meeting, Hilton Head, SC.

Schmidt, BL, E Aberer, et al. (1995) Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA by polymerase chain reaction in the urine and breast milk of patients with Lyme borreliosis.  Diogn Microbio Infect Dis 2193): 121-8.

Wahlberg, P et al. Treatment of late Lyme borreliosis. J Infect. 1994. 29(30: p255-61.


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