Lyme disease is a multi-system bacterial infection that is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdoferi. Interestingly research has proven that the bacterium that causes Lyme disease has been in the United States for over 100 years.
The bacterium live in nature in the bodies of wild animals and are transmitted from one animal to another through the bite of an infective tick. Animals in this chain include humans. The ticks live on the proteins from blood. As they travel from meal to meal they inject the tiny bacteria into the bloodstream of their current host.
Humans do not maintain a natural immunity to Lyme disease so a person can be infected and then reinfected at a later time. The common ticks that transmit the disease in North America are the Western black – legged tick which was formerly known as the ‘deer’ tick. Ticks bite year round but the peak season is April through September on the east coast and November through April on the west coast.
Lyme disease accounts for 90% of the vector borne infections in the United States. Due to the nature of the disease and the range of possibilities there is a significant amount of underreporting. Evidence of infection has been found on all continents and isn’t restricted to the western hemisphere.
Early Lyme Disease symptoms start with flu-like feelings of headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches and fatigue. About 60% of light-skinned patients notice a unique rash days to weeks after the bite. On a dark skinned person this resembles a bruise. The rash can start as a small red bump about ½ inch in diameter. It can be raised or flat and it expands leaving a clearing of normal flesh color in the center.
To be considered a localized disease the rash must be at the tick site with no other signs of other organ involvement. If the rash is other than the site of the bite and other organs are involved then it is an indication that it is Disseminated Lyme Disease.
In disseminated Lyme Disease symptoms patients experience fatigue, severe headache, fevers, muscle aches and pains. There are signs and symptoms that are specific to the nervous system (paralysis of the limbs, loss of reflexes, meningitis, difficulty chewing and swallowing, light or sound sensitivity, deviation of the eye ball, Bell’s palsy), eyes (vision changes, optic atrophy, red eye, spots before eyes, pain, double vision), skin (lymphocytoma, acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans), heart and blood vessels (irregular beats, heart block, chest pain), joints (pain sometimes with swelling, TMJ like pain in the jaw), liver, lungs, muscle, stomache, spleen and misscariage.
Lyme Disease symptoms are a clinical diagnosis since there is no definitive test for the bacterium. There is no test to rule out Lyme disease either.
There are some tests that help in the diagnosis. Antibody tests will test the immune response to fight off Lyme Disease. False negative tests occur due to the defects in test sensitivity and false positives are due to test failure or cross reacting antibodies. The ELISA test measures the level of the bacterium antibodies in the blood or fluid of the sufferer.
The Western blot test reacts to the immune system by producing bands. However, the interpretation and reporting is inconsistent from lab to lab. C6 Lyme Peptide ELISA identifies the antibodies is more sensitive to diagnose all states of Lyme disease.
Treatment varies dependent upon the organ systems involved and the time of diagnosis. Oral antibiotics may be sufficient for early stages of non-disseminated infection. Long standing responds best to one or several courses of oral or intravenous antibodies.
Lyme Disease symptoms are varied. Patients may experience a localized response or a disseminated response involving several organ systems. Only your doctor can diagnose your Lyme Disease symptoms and give you the correct treatment protocol.