Definition of Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks.
Researchers first recognized it in 1975. In Lyme, Conn., and two neighboring towns. There was an unusual amount of children diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Because of that, the researchers started an investigation.
The investigators discovered that most of the affected children lived near wooded areas likely to harbor ticks.
They also found that the children’s first symptoms typically started in the summer months. The summer period coincides with the height of the tick season.
Although we often associate deer with ticks, they are not the only are the animals that often carry these insects:
- White-footed field mice
The disease is medically described in three phases (stages) as:
- early localized disease with skin inflammation and rash
- early disseminated disease with heart and nervous system involvement, including palsies and meningitis
- late disease featuring motor and sensory nerve damage and brain inflammation. It can also result in arthritis.
The following signs and symptoms may be associated with Lyme disease:
- Joint Swelling
- Loss of Facial Muscle Tone
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Memory Problems
- Muscle Pains
- Shooting Pains
- Stiff Neck
Anxiety and depression also occurs more often people with Lyme disease, researchers have found. Not all patients show the same symptoms, rather every patient as a specific set of symptoms. This makes diagnosing the disease correctly all the more difficult.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose. Many of its symptoms mimic those of other disorders. It is often misdiagnosed. People walk around with it for years without knowing what is causing there symptoms. Because of the long time it takes before people get diagnosed with Lyme, the disease can develope into stage 3. Therefore this late stage Lyme is also called chronic Lyme.
Although a tick bite is an important clue for diagnosis. Unfortunately many patients cannot recall having been bitten by a tick.
The easiest way for a doctor to diagnose Lyme disease is to see the unique bull’s-eye rash.
If there is no visible rash, the doctor might order a blood test. You will have this blood test done three to four weeks after the onset of the suspected infection. With a blood test the lab will look for antibodies against the bacteria.
These blood tests are:
- Western Blot
- Spinal Tap
With this blood test the levels of antibodies is measured. These are measured against the Lyme disease bacteria present in the body.
Antibodies are molecules or small substances tailor made by the immune system. The antibodies lock onto and destroy specific microbial invaders.
The aim of this blood test is to identify antibodies. The lab transfers the proteins to a membrane. The proteins are stained with antibodies specific to the target protein. A doctor usually orders a Western Blot test when the ELISA result is either positive or uncertain.
Other tests. Some patients experiencing nervous system symptoms may also undergo a spinal tap.
A spinal tap is a procedure in which spinal fluid is removed from the spinal canal. The spinal fluid can then be diagnosed in a laboratory.
Doctors can detect brain and spinal cord inflammation through this procedure. The lab can look for antibodies against the Lyme disease bacterium in the spinal fluid.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated?
In its early stages it is possible to treat the disease with anti-biotics. Consequently it might never development into stage 2.
Antibiotics, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin taken orally for two to four weeks. This can speed the healing of the rash. As a result it prevents subsequent symptoms such as arthritis or neurological problems.
Prolonged antibiotic use may have serious side effects.
Intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be used for more serious cases. Also when someone nervous system has been affected an IV treatment might be used.
We also have written a post on Treating this disease without any toxic antibiotic drugs.