Second Opinion Magazine
Lyme and Tick-Borne Illness - An Update
by Susan Peck PhD, GNP-BC, APNP, FAAO, APT, CHTP/I, Nurse Practitioner
Lyme and tick-borne illness season is just around the corner. Some with chronic Lyme have already begun to experience flares of their symptoms. It’s a global health issue with concentration in multiple areas of the world. The CDC estimates there are more than 300,000 cases of Lyme in US annually, and the upper Midwest is highly endemic for disease.
Know Your Bugs - Knowing the type of tick bite helps determine what infection might be present. Many types of ticks live in this area including the black-legged, brown dog, American dog, and deer, and most of them have more than one infection.
The length of time the tick is attached contributes to the degree of transmission. The longer attached (the more engorged the tick) the more likely the person/animal is infected. Minutes to hours is enough in most cases. The infection likes to hide out in areas of old injury, scar tissue, or even in a leaky gut or dental issues. It travels through skin/connective tissue and spread to joints, the nervous system, and the heart.
Symptoms - Tick bites are usually painless but can itch. The bullseye rash, or erythema migrans (EM), is actually only present in 30% of the cases. Fever, sore throat, swollen glands and roving joint pain in large and small joints can also occur.
Diagnosis - Standard Lyme blood testing is not well developed and negative results are highly likely. If tested too early, the body hasn’t mounted an antibody response yet and everything appears fine. And these bugs can play smart tricks on us to prevent our immune system from reacting to them, which can cause the negative test results. However, new laws in the country of France and in the states of Maryland and Virginia state that if a patient has symptoms of Lyme but the tests are negative, it is illegal to tell patient they do NOT have Lyme. Lab tests available can confirm the presence of Lyme, but they cannot rule out the diagnosis.
Treatment - Treatment using antibiotics and herbals will vary per stage. If there is a known bite but no symptoms, a 21-day treatment is recommended. When symptoms of Lyme are present, treatment extends for 4-6 weeks plus 30 days after symptoms resolve to prevent chronic infection. Full guidelines are available, free to all, from the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) at: https://www.ilads.org/patient-care/ilads-treatment-guidelines/.
In patients left untreated, 13% develop neurologic complications, 60% have intermittent arthritis, and 34% have long-term health problems including heart disease. Delay of diagnosis increases costs to the individual, the health care system, and insurance companies. Many people report quality of life problems for three months prior to diagnosis. For those who were diagnosed at least six month after symptoms began, 61.7% still have quality of life problems more than two years out.
Besides antibiotics, herbals have been researched and shown to decrease multi-drug resistance. Herbals are synergistic with antibiotics, helping prevent antibiotic side effects, clear biofilms, and increase treatment success.
Get Tested - Tissue banks are available for providers and patients to submit biopsy tissue, surgically obtained tissue or at autopsy, for future research. Patient history is required to go with the tissue. Check out the Lyme Disease Biobank website for more details: https://www.bayarealyme.org/our-research/biobank/.