Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection, caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, that is acquired from the bite of an infected tick. It is most common in the Northeastern states, the Upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest states. However, cases of Lyme Disease have been reported in all 50 states. Typical symptoms are “flu-like” and include fever, headache, general achiness and fatigue. Some people may develop a distinctive “bulls-eye” rash. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, nervous system, brain, muscles and more.
Ticks often harbor other bacterial, protozoal, viral and parasitic organisms that can be transmitted through the same tick bite. The co-infections are often challenging to diagnose, as clinical features often overlap with many of the other tick-borne diseases, including Lyme Disease. Some of the most common tick-borne co-infections are: Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Powassan Encephalitis and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI).
Lyme Disease is often called “The Great Imitator.” Symptoms often mimic those of many other diseases. Misdiagnoses include: Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s Disease, ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s Disease, mental illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, carpel tunnel syndrome and more. There are over 150 common Lyme Disease Symptoms that are core symptoms of other diseases.
Lyme Disease is a clinical diagnosis – based on your medical history, symptoms and exposure to ticks. A negative blood test result does not mean you don’t have Lyme Disease. However, if the “bulls-eye” rash is present, it is a definitive diagnosis of Lyme Disease and treatment should begin immediately. Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme Disease and treatment options are continually evolving. Lyme literate doctors (LLMDS) will prescribe 6 to 12 weeks of a common antibiotic, like doxycycline or amoxicillin for a case of Lyme Disease that is caught early. This is effective for most people. Treatment may be extended if your symptoms remain. If not treated promptly, Lyme Disease may become persistent and longer courses of antibiotics may be necessary. It is imperative that patients educate themselves and become an advocate for their health rights.