Integrative Lyme Disease Treatment Program
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. It is caused by the bacterium carried by this tick known as B. burgdorferi.
Although typically cured with antibiotic treatment, untreated Lyme disease can spread to the joints and other parts of the body causing mysterious symptoms that may be difficult to diagnose or mimic unrelated illness.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.
Who Gets Lyme Disease?
Anyone can contract Lyme disease, but certain lifestyle factors and your location may influence your chances of coming into contact with the Lyme-carrying deer tick.
Most commonly diagnosed in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest of the United States, Lyme disease was first noted in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975.
Although Lyme Disease is most often contracted by campers, hikers, and those who spend time outdoors in wooded areas it is possible to contract Lyme Disease outside of these circumstances.
What Are The Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
The symptoms of Lyme disease will vary between individuals and are dependent on the stage of infection. Lyme Disease progresses in three stages. These stages of infection are referred to as:
- The early localized stage
- The early disseminated stage
- Late disseminated Lyme disease
Early Localized Stage
Lyme disease is cured most easily if detected and diagnosed in the early localized stage.
A 14-21 day course of antibiotics may be prescribed in the early localized stage to treat the infection. It is crucial to be aware of symptoms during this early stage of infection, including:
- A ”bullseye” rash anywhere on the body, known as erythema migrans
- Swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms may occur between three and 30 days after transmission via the initial tick bite. In some patients, early signs of infection may overlap between stages 1 and 2.
It is important to monitor any potential symptoms of Lyme disease in the early stages of infection. As mentioned above, untreated Lyme disease can produce mysterious symptoms that are difficult to diagnose and often mimic other illnesses.
Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
Later symptoms of infection may occur days to months after initial transmission. Left untreated, patients in Stage 3 Late disseminated Lyme disease may experience:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- A spreading bullseye rash or other rashes on other areas of the body
- Joint pain and arthritis, particularly in the knees
- Bell’s palsy, a facial paralysis including loss of muscle tone or a droop on one or both sides of the face
- Pain in tendons, muscles, joints, or bones
- Lyme carditis (heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat)
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Possible inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Neurological symptoms including numbness, tingling and shooting pains in the hands or feet
- Problems with short-term memory
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
Lyme disease is most often diagnosed on the basis of these symptoms and physical findings including skin rash. In some cases, laboratory work will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis. Tests performed by your doctor to diagnose Lyme disease include:
ELISA(enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) This test is used to detect antibodies against B. burgdorferi.
If the ELISA test result is positive, a western blot may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
If Lyme related arthritis is present, a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) may be performed using the joint or spinal fluid.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated?
Treatment of Lyme disease is dependant on the stage of infection. Early, localized Lyme disease is typically treated with a 14-21 day course of antibiotics.
In many instances, advanced cases of Lyme disease require treatment administered via intravenous antibiotics for 14-to-21 days.
Symptoms may linger after the infection is eliminated from the body, including joint pain.
While the cause of these lingering symptoms is not fully understood, it is thought to be related to an increased autoimmune response present in susceptible individuals.
Prevention: What Steps Can I Take To Avoid Contracting Lyme Disease?
To prevent Lyme disease, it is necessary to protect yourself from ticks and other insects.
Precautionary steps to take in the prevention of tick bites include using insect repellent, applying pesticides, avoiding certain habitats in which ticks are present and immediately removing any ticks found on your skin or clothing after brief or prolonged exposure to forests and wooded areas.
For more information on Lyme disease and receiving treatment from a trusted and reputable integrative health and wellness center, contact Gentle Wellness Center in Fairfax, Virginia today.