This blog post is for those who have come home after a hike in the woods with a tick whose hitchhiked a ride at your expense because you look like its next scrumptious meal. It's also happens to be Lyme Disease Awareness month once again and I'm speaking out for the millions of Lyme disease warriors...
Who have struggled to get an accurate diagnosis and quality treatment
Who have been told by physicians that it's all in their head
Whose goal is often simply to make it to the end of the day
Who have disappeared slowly from society
Who have lost their jobs, resources, and relationships
Who fight the stigma associated with an "invisible illness"
My hope is that you'll never be familiar with this list above so it is my aim and goal to funnel and narrow down the abundance of information (and misinformation) out there into an easy to read and helpful resource for you. You won't hear this from your primary care physician (it's complicated and political) but loud and clear from the millions of individuals who have walked the journey and fought the battle. Let's clear a few things up first....
Lyme Facts: The Ones Your Doctor Won't Tell You
Myth: Lyme Disease is from a tick and must be accompanied by a erythema migrans (bulls eye) rash.
Fact: While it is ticks primarily that carry Lyme disease it has also been found to be transmitted through spiders and mosquitoes as well. Only about 27-80% of individuals bitten by a tick with Lyme show the classic "bulls eye" rash and approximately 40% of people with chronic Lyme recalled a rash (source). This is not a prerequisite for a diagnosis. Nymph ticks are as small as a poppyseed and easy to miss when attached to the skin.
Myth: Once bitten by a tick infected with Lyme you will show signs of Lyme disease immediately.
Fact: The individuals response to the spirochete bacteria is usually reflective of the strength of the host's immune system at the time of the bite. Many are bit by a tick who posses a very robust and healthy immune systems and thus their body possesses the ability to suppress it. Lyme spirochetes are masters at hiding inside the host's body until a more opportune time to come out and wreak havoc. Oftentimes triggers such as stress, toxins, mold, and an acute illness can suppress the immune system to such a degree that Lyme will awaken and spread systemically beginning to weaken the immune system even more leaving individuals confused as to what caused the illness due to a delay in symptoms that began later on (sometimes years after).
Myth: Lyme disease is hard to catch and easy to treat.
Fact: Many individuals aren't aware they've been bitten by a tick because many are bit from the nymph (immature) form of the tick which are the size of a poppy seed. While difficult to know for certain how many ticks are infected it is suspected that up to 70% of ticks carry the Lyme bacteria in certain areas source. Physicians often forgo testing patients for Lyme disease due to outdated data on endemic vs. non endemic areas. Furthermore, when the infection continues past the acute stage (4-6 weeks) the Lyme is increasingly more difficult to treat and often takes months or often years and multiple approaches and vast resources to heal. Many Lyme patients go to exhaustive measures treating with high dose antibiotics, herbs, ozone therapy, bee venom therapy, intravenous treatments and much more.
Myth: Twenty one days of doxycycline is enough to cure and rid the body of Lyme disease.
Fact: If you're one of the few lucky ones to find a knowledgeable physician who will test and get a positive Lyme test and are given several weeks of antibiotics to fight off an acute infection you may stand a fighting chance to eradicate the disease. If you miss this window of opportunity and your immune defenses are down this flexible and spiral shaped bacteria will exit the bloodstream and begin to bore into the bodies tissues. From there it will begin to infect the tissues, joints, muscles, and every nook and cranny from head to toe. The insidious bacteria is a stealth pathogen that evades the immune system and is able to hide itself in biofilm and cyst forms making it extremely challenging to treat. At this point there is no going back... but remission is possible!
Myth: Lyme testing is an accurate tool to diagnosis Lyme disease
Fact: "According to a new study, the CDC’s standard two-tier testing for Lyme disease failed to accurately diagnose more than 70% of blood samples from individuals with an erythema migrans rash greater than 5 centimeters across" source. Furthermore, "The saliva of infected ticks contains specific immune-suppressing components that can delay or prevent the activation of a person’s immune response. These components are designed to prevent the body from effectively “fighting off” the Lyme disease-causing bacteria, so it has a chance to take hold source. Physicians need to rely on their knowledge of the signs and symptoms of early Lyme disease to diagnose patients and provide prompt and essential treatment.
Discouraging as it may sound the remainder of this post will hopefully help to empower you with essential knowledge so that if you do encounter a tick bite or begin to show symptoms of Lyme disease you will know how to take action!