Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the US and Western Europe with more than 400,000 new cases contracted each year in the US-an increase of more than 10 times what was previously believed.
Unfortunately, standard medical care still does not view Lyme disease as a real illness. This is mostly because of the lack of adequate testing but also due to a lack of understanding of the disease. The Western Blot, for example only picks up levels of antibodies from Lyme. If only a few antibodies are detected, the person is considered not to have Lyme disease, although they may be symptomatic. Even if the patient tested positive for Lyme, treatment is only focused on antibiotic therapy for acute Lyme, whereas Lyme is often a chronic persistent infection, for which antibiotics are often ineffective. Luckily organizations like the International Association of Lyme and Associated Diseases (ISLADS), is leading the way on its resources and education for physicians to better understand this disorder.
Symptoms of Acute Lyme may include:
- A red rash called erythema migrans (EM). Most people with Lyme disease get this rash. It gets bigger over several days and may feel warm. It is usually not painful or itchy. ...
- Muscle and joint aches.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
Symptoms of Chronic or Persistent Lyme may include:
- Restless sleep
- Aching joints or muscles
- Pain or swelling in the knees, shoulders, elbows, and other large joints
- Decreased short-term memory or ability to concentrate
- Speech problems
Known as "The Great Imitator," Lyme disease can mimic the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, MS, ALS, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's, as well as more than some 350 other diseases. When patients do present with a number of infections and coinfections, including other tick-borne infections, it is this complicated presentation that Dr. Horowitz called MSIDS or Multiple Systemic Infectious Diseases
Syndrome. Symptoms of MSIDS may include For a copy of this questionnaire please contact our office or see this link.
- Abnormal liver function
- Autonomic nervous system dysfunction
- Endocrine abnormalities
- Environmental toxicity
- Enzyme deficiencies
- Functional medicine abnormalities in biochemical pathways
- Gastrointestinal abnormalities
- Immune dysfunction
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Neuropsychological issues
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Pain issues
- Physical de-conditioning
- Sleep disorders
- Day sweats, night sweats, chills
- Shortness of breath with unexplained cough- possibly from babesiosis, a malaria-type parasite contracted through tick bites.
Lyme is really the front disease for a myriad of infections. Logically, does a tick just carry one bacterial infection? Highly unlikely. In fact, ticks are like dirty needles carrying multiple infections in the form of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. When a person is infected they get as many as 5-10 infections. In addition, when the immune system is compromised or dysfunctional from battling Lyme infection, additional opportunistic infections that are dormant in the body become activated.
So focusing on just Lyme bacteria for diagnosis and treatment is limiting recovery. Unfortunately, many coinfections (as they are referred to) are difficult to test for and diagnose. Symptoms are often overlapping. The probability of having coinfections, however, is extremely high. It has been generally estimated through clinical experience to be about 80%, but a recent survey in 2016 in the U.K. reported that 94% of Lyme disease patients have at least one coinfection. For a summary of co-infections, see this post.
While Acute Lyme can be treated with antibiotics, Chronic Lyme and MSIDS are more of a challenge. While sometimes antibiotics are needed, often herbal therapies are just as effective and avoid the side effects of long-term antibiotic use. Given the complexity of this illness, all body systems must be supported, including detoxification, hormonal support, organ support, pain and sleep supports, and emotional support. There are many great functional Lyme doctors that inspire us as we search to support our patients who suffer from this disorder. We have had success with Lyme protocols from many great doctors such as Dr. Klinghardt, MD, Ph.D., Dr. Lee Cowden, MD, and Dr. Rawls, MD. Stephen Buhner, a master herbalist is the foremost authority in this area and has developed successful herbal treatment protocols for Lyme--for more information, see http://buhnerhealinglyme.com/. We find that everyone is different and may need a combination of various herbal and pharmaceutical supports. For more information please contact our office for more information.