What is Lyme Disease?

I assume most people who visit this blog are either Lyme sufferers or a friend or relative of someone who is. For those new to this disease, I will provide a brief overview.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system (Centers for Disease Control, 2012).

If discovered early, the disease can often be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. Unfortunately, the disease is frequently undiagnosed. Patients who go undiagnosed for months or years can develop Chronic Lyme Disease and face a much more difficult recovery with multiple antibiotics and other treatments. Chronic or late-stage Lyme is a controversial topic. Many physicians do not believe that it exists, compounding the problem of diagnosis.

Other facts about Lyme Disease

  • Lyme Disease is prevalent across the United States and throughout the world.
  • Fewer than 50% of patients actually remember a tick bite.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, reports that “there is considerable under-reporting” of Lyme disease, maintaining that the actual infection rate may be 1.8 million, 10 times higher than the 180,000 cases currently reported.
  • Of patients with acute culture-proven Lyme disease, 20–30% remain seronegative on serial Western Blot sampling (International Lyme And Associated Diseases Society, 2012).
  • The disease commonly has multiple co-infections, including, Babesia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia and Bartonella.
  • Borrelia burgdorferi is a spiral shaped bacterium called a spirochete, discovered by Dr. Willy Burgdorfer in 1982. Syphillus is another spirochete bacterium related to Bb.
  • Like syphilis in the 19th century, Lyme disease has been called the great imitator and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of rheumatologic and neurologic conditions, as well as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, somatization disorder and any difficult-to-diagnose multi-system illness (International Lyme And Associated Diseases Society, 2012).

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