Lyme Carditis: Complications of Heart Health & Late-Stage Lyme Disease
Lyme Carditis is a potentially life-threatening manifestation of Lyme disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged (deer) ticks.
In Lyme Carditis, the bacteria invade heart tissues and disrupt the electrical signals that regulate the heartbeat. This can lead to severe conduction abnormalities and, in some cases, sudden cardiac death.
Early detection and treatment of Lyme Carditis are crucial for a full recovery. Dr. Sponaugle is experienced with all aspects of Lyme Carditis, including its stages, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, with an on-site EKG to monitor heart function as part of the Lyme Disease treatment program at Sponaugle Wellness Institute in Oldsmar, FL.
Diagnosis of Lyme Carditis
Diagnosing Lyme Carditis involves a combination of the patient's history and symptoms, a physical examination, and positive Lyme serology.
Electrocardiography (ECG) is an essential diagnostic tool for detecting cardiac abnormalities in patients with suspected Lyme Carditis. Additionally, echocardiography may assess the coronary vessels' heart muscle and blood flow.
In cases where Lyme Carditis is suspected, doctors use a COSTAR score to assess patients. The score consists of the following factors:
- C - Constitutional symptoms - 2
- O - Outdoor activity/endemic area - 1
- S - Sex = male - 1
- T - Tick bite - 3
- A - Age < 50 - 1
- R - Rash = erythema migrans - 4
Cardiologists should consider Lyme Carditis for any patient with a score of 4 or higher.
Lyme Carditis and the Stages of Lyme Disease
Lyme Carditis typically occurs in Stage 2 (Early Disseminated) Lyme disease when the bacteria have spread to other parts of the body, including the heart. However, it can also develop earlier and progress rapidly. Antibiotic treatment should be adjusted depending on the stage of the disease.
Stages of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease has three distinct stages:
- Stage 1: Early Localized – Symptoms appear within 30 days of a tick bite, including a bulls-eye rash at the bite site and low-grade fever.
- Stage 2: Early Disseminated – Symptoms appear after three to 12 weeks and can include full-body symptoms, such as painful swollen joints, muscle pain, chest pain, headaches, dizziness, and Bell's palsy.
- Stage 3: Late Persistent – Symptoms can begin several months or years after infection and involve many of the stage 2 symptoms but to a worsening degree. Radiating nerve pain (radiculopathy), widespread body pain, knee arthritis, and a purple rash (acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans) on the hands, feet, or knees are some of the symptoms at this stage.
Risk Factors for Lyme Carditis
Lyme Carditis is a relatively rare complication of untreated Lyme disease, with only 4-10% of patients developing it, and only 1% of those patients developing atrioventricular block (AVB).
However, it can progress rapidly and become dangerous. Males are more commonly affected, with a three times higher incidence than females.
Treatment of Lyme Carditis
The treatment of Lyme Carditis depends on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, oral antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime are prescribed for 10-21 days.
In more advanced stages, intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be administered for 14-28 days. In some cases, a temporary pacemaker may be required to regulate the heartbeat.
It is essential to note that permanent pacemakers are unnecessary when the cause of carditis is Lyme disease. Early treatment with antibiotics may prevent irreversible conduction disease in Lyme Carditis.
Long-Term Complications of Lyme Carditis
While death from Lyme Carditis is considered rare by the CDC and conventional medicine, Dr. Sponaugle has seen it become more prevalent in patients through the years, especially with those also suffering from mold toxicity, underlying infections, and environmental disease.
Preventing Lyme Carditis involves preventing Lyme disease itself. Limiting exposure to ticks is essential, especially in regions with high Lyme disease prevalence. Wearing protective clothing, using tick repellents, and performing regular tick checks can help reduce the risk of infection.
If a tick bites you, it is crucial to remove it immediately and consult a healthcare provider for guidance. Early treatment of Lyme disease can help prevent complications such as Lyme Carditis.