Lyme disease (Lyme neuroborreliosis): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Lyme disease (Lyme neuroborreliosis): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by bacteria in the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato group.

The first symptom is usually a characteristic pink or red rash that starts as a small red spot that gradually spreads in a much larger circle with a characteristic bulls-eye appearance called erythema migrans. This normally happens between 3 and 32 days after being bitten by an infected tick. Not everyone with Lyme disease gets the rash. There may also be fever, headaches, tiredness. Joint pains are particularly prominent with infections acquired in North America.

If left untreated, the Lyme disease infection can spread through the bloodstream and can cause infection in the brain and membranes surrounding the brain (meningo-encephalitis) and infection in or around the heart (endocarditis, myocarditis or pericarditis). The disease can also cause inflammation of joints and cause joint pain and long-term neurological symptoms.

Lyme disease is not an easy diagnosis to make. This is especially so if the patient has no rash and does not recall a tick bite. If a patient remembers a tick bite and then becomes unwell, Lyme disease is a possibility. Negative test results do not necessarily exclude a diagnosis of Lyme disease and the diagnosis may sometimes be made on clinical grounds alone.

The number of cases confirmed by laboratory testing in the UK has risen from 346 in 2003 to about 1700 in 2017. Public Health England (PHE) acknowledges that confirmed cases do not necessarily reflect all the cases of the disease. PHE official estimates suggest there could be up to 3,000 new cases occurring in the UK every year. The true number of cases is not known, and is probably much higher. Since full recovery may not take place in many cases, the total number of people affected is accumulating.

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How does Lyme Disease affect your body?

Once the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium is in the body, it starts to change its form by altering the proteins on its outer cell wall, effectively hiding itself from the immune system. Typically, when a foreign invader assaults the body, the immune system detects it by its cell-wall proteins, developing specific antibodies to launch an immune attack. But with the ability to change its outer-cell-wall proteins, the Lyme bacteria becomes hidden from the immune system, almost like an invader who suddenly dons a disguise. The immune system is looking for a specific cell-wall protein, but the Lyme no longer wears that protein, and thus cannot be found.

As the body continues its assault on the Lyme bacteria – sending immune cells to fight the now-disguised organism – this immune response wreaks havoc in places throughout the body such as the skin, brain, nerves and joints. Because the bacterium continues to shift its “appearance” by changing its outer-cell-wall proteins, it continues to evade the immune system. Yet the attack has already begun, as the immune system continues to send neutrophils, monocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages to fight the invader. Unfortunately, these immune cells aren’t successful at killing the infection. Instead, the toxic compounds they release in the fight cause inflammation everywhere in the body and damage tissues in essentially every organ in the body.

What are the Causes of Lyme Disease ?

Only some species of ticks are capable of being infected by the Borrelia bacteria and only these infected ticks can pass the infection on to humans. These ticks are commonly found in parts of Asia, Europe and North America. Related ticks occur in Australia but these have not been shown to be infected with Lyme disease Borrelia bacteria.

Lyme disease is not spread from person to person.

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What are the Risk Factors of Lyme Disease?

The general risk for becoming infected with Lyme disease is greatest between April and September because ticks are most active during warmer months.

You are also at greater risk if you live in the Northeast or Midwest regions of the United States, where most cases of Lyme disease occur.

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What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease can affect any part of the body and cause many different symptoms. The commonest symptoms include :

  • Feeling unwell
  • Having flu-like symptoms
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Upset digestive system
  • Headache
  • Disturbances of the central nervous system and a
  • Poor sleep pattern.

In some cases an expanding ‘bull’s eye’ rash appears on the skin. However, a rash in any form is not a universal symptom. If the rash does occur, it is termed erythema migrans or EM rash.

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How is Lyme Disease diagnosed?

These diagnostic tests can be done after a few weeks after an infection i.e. when your body has had time to develop antibodies. They include:

  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test – The test used most often to detect Lyme disease, ELISA detects antibodies to B. burgdorferi. But because it can sometimes provide false-positive results, it’s not used as the sole basis for diagnosis. This test might not be positive during the early stage of Lyme disease, but the rash is distinctive enough to make the diagnosis without further testing in people who live in areas infested with ticks that transmit Lyme disease.
  • Western blot test – If the ELISA test is positive, this test is usually done to confirm the diagnosis. In this two-step approach, the Western blot detects antibodies to several proteins of B. burgdorferi.

How to prevent & control Lyme Disease?

Common preventive measures include :

  • Wear appropriate clothing when outdoors in tick areas including long sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into socks and a wide brimmed hat. Ticks are more easily detected on light coloured clothing.
  • Spray clothes and hats with an insect repellent and wear a repellent that contains DEET or Picaridin.
  • When walking through tick-infested areas try to keep to the centre of cleared paths as much as possible and try to avoid brushing up against plants and grasses as you walk.
  • When returning from an area known to have ticks, remove clothing and search for ticks, especially behind the ears, on the back of the head, groin, armpits and back of knees. Be careful where clothes are placed as they may introduce ticks inside the house. Don’t forget to check children and pets.

Treatment of Lyme Disease Allopathic Treatment –

After removal of a tick, Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics,  although the type of antibiotic used depends on what stage of the disease you have.

After you remove a tick that has been attached to you for at least 36 hours — the amount of time it takes for the tick to transmit the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi — there’s a 72-hour window during which your doctor may give you a single dose of the antibiotic doxycycline to prevent the development of Lyme disease. Doxycycline is prescribed to patients age 8 and older, except for pregnant women.

If you already have stage 1 (localized) or stage 2 (early disseminated) Lyme disease with the telltale bull’s-eye rash but no other significant symptoms, your doctor will most likely treat you with oral doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime for 14 to 21 days.

If you have meningitis or nerve issues from early Lyme disease, your treatment will require taking intravenous ceftriaxone for 14 days. (2)

Stage 3 (late disseminated) Lyme disease is also treated with various antibiotics:

For Lyme disease that causes arthritis, 28 days of oral doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime is prescribed. Additional courses of antibiotics may be necessary, depending on the severity and persistence of your symptoms.

For Lyme disease affecting the nervous system (late neurologic Lyme disease), two to four weeks of intravenous ceftriaxone or penicillin is prescribed.

Treatment of Lyme Disease Homeopathic Treatment –

  • Thuja –  for Delusions as a result of Lyme Disease
  • Conium – for Lyme Disease with Vertigo
  • Aconitum Napellus – for Lyme Disease with Anxiety and Palpitations
  • Kali Phosphoricum –  for Brain fog in chronic Lyme Disease
  • Belladonna – for Lyme disease with Constant Headache
  • Rhus Toxicodendron – t for Lyme disease with Arthritis
  • Ledum Palustre –  for Lyme Disease with Skin Rash
  • Arsenicum Album – for Lyme Disease with Chronic Fatigue
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Lyme Disease – Lifestyle Tips

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Avoid caffeine or other stimulants that may affect sleep quality.
  • Avoid alcohol or use in moderation.
  • No smoking.
  • Exercise to your ability when possible being careful not to overdo it.
  • Modify your diet to include high quality protein and be high in fibre and low in fat and carbohydrates – reduce simple carbohydrates, use those with low glycemic index.

What are Recommended Exercises for Person with Lyme Disease?

Any of these exercises can be done for at least 30 min per day.

  • Yoga
  • Light Weight Lifting
  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Stair stepping

Lyme Disease & Pregnancy – Things to know

Antibiotic treatments for Lyme disease is safe during pregnancy. The antibiotic amoxicillin is usually taken three times a day for two to three weeks. If you’re allergic to amoxicillin, your doctor might prescribe cefuroxime, a different antibiotic, taken twice daily instead. Another antibiotic that is used to treat Lyme disease, doxycycline, is not prescribed to pregnant women. Based on the symptoms you describe, your doctor may opt to give you the antibiotic before ordering lab tests, so you can start treatment as quickly as possible. You may still have lab work, even though you started treatment.

Common Complications Related to Lyme Disease

Untreated Lyme disease can cause complications such as :

  • Chronic joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis), particularly of the knee
  • Neurological symptoms, such as facial palsy and neuropathy
  • Cognitive defects, such as impaired memory
  • Heart rhythm irregularities

Other FAQs about Lyme Disease

Q. What vitamins are good for Lyme disease?

A. Taking vitamin B12, coenzyme Q10, chromium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and herbs such as Rhodiola rosea can improve energy and help with cellular repair—all key in recovering from conditions that can be as resistant as Lyme disease.

Q. Is Lyme Disease permanent?

A. The CDC states, It is not uncommon for patients treated for Lyme disease with a recommended 2 to 4 week course of antibiotics to have lingering symptoms of fatigue, pain, or joint and muscle aches at the time they finish treatment. In a small percentage of cases, these symptoms can last for more than 6 months.

Q. Does Lyme disease cause birth defects?

A. If it’s not treated, Lyme disease can cause brain, nerve, spinal cord and heart problems. If you get Lyme disease during pregnancy, it may cause problems for your baby, including certain birth defects and stillbirth.


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