Lyme disease is an infection caused by four species of the spirochete bacterium Borrelia: Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii are the leading causes in the United States, while Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are more prevalent in Asia and Europe.
The bacterium is transmitted by a bite of an infected black-legged tick, commonly referred to as “deer tick”. From there, it travels through the bloodstream and then establishes in a body tissue. Symptoms begin to appear within 7-14 days from the day of contact.
Brief History of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease has been present in America for thousands of years now. It is said that Reverend Dr. John Walker, a Scottish minister and natural historian, made the first detailed description of the disease in 1764. He wrote it while on a visit to the Island of Jura (Deer Island).
In 1970s, a number of adults and children in Lyme, Connecticut complained symptoms of an unknown disease. Patient advocates conducted their own research and found a common group among patient: they were all bitten by a tick in Lyme, Connecticut.
But it was not only until 1980s when the causative agent and vector of Lyme disease was discovered by Wilhelm “Willy” Burgdorfer. He was also studying Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever at the time he made the connection between ticks and the spirochetes. Only then did people understand what is Lyme disease.
The medical community named the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, in honor of him.
How Lyme Disease is Acquired
The leading cause of Lyme Disease in the United States is the Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease transmission is by the bite infected of ticks. In the north-central, northeastern, and mid-Atlantic part of the United States, it is spread by deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis). A different species of deer ticks (Ixodes pacificus) carries the disease to the Pacific Coast.
How do humans get the bacteria?
Deer ticks get the bacteria when they bite infected mammals. Humans acquire Lyme disease when they are bitten by an infected tick. The bacterium, which often lies on the suckers, is accidentally introduced into the bloodstream when ticks take a blood meal.
Where can you find infected ticks?
These ticks thrive in woody or grassy areas, in warm weather. They do not jump or fly. Instead, they wait a host to pass by and climb on. While waiting, they hold on the tips of leaves or grass by their rear legs.
Their front legs are outstretched so that they are ready to climb aboard the moment a host gets near them. Once on a host, they will find a spot to bite on. Most often, they attach themselves to concealed areas such as scalps, armpits, and groin. It usually takes at least 36 hours before the bacterium can be passed on to the host.
When do they drink blood?
A tick has 3 life stages: larval, nymphal, and adult. It takes 2 years to complete the lifecycle, which requires a blood meal before developing to the next stage. Normally, the tick drinks blood for at least 4 days to complete each stage.
What animals do ticks infect?
Deers are the favorite host of ticks, but they also feed on rodents. Although cats and dogs can also contract Lyme disease, no evidence proves that they can transmit it to humans. However, they can accidentally transport infected ticks into living spaces.
When is transmission most prevalent?
Nymphs or immature ticks are the most common vectors. They are less than 2mm, which makes them hard to see. They are most active during summer, but they can also survive moderate to severe cold. Adult Ixodes ticks prefer cooler weathers.
Why is it easy for the bacteria to get inside the human body?
Tick saliva contains substances that hinder with the host’s immune response, helping the Ixodes bacteria establish infection. The bacteria multiply outward from the dermis until they reach the blood stream and deeper tissues. This is why skin rashes are the usual initial signs of Lyme disease. If left untreated, the bacteria could live in the body for years, even with the production of antibodies.
Why Lyme Disease is Hard to Diagnose
The major reason why Lyme disease is often left untreated despite the availability of medications and facilities is because it has similar signs and symptoms with other diseases. Fever, joint pain and headaches may be attributed to virus or a different bacterium.
Symptoms may be faint or in unnoticeable parts of the body.
In regions where Lyme disease is less prevalent, it is not factored in during diagnostic process.
If the patient doesn’t have a rash or doesn’t remember being bitten by a tick, Lyme disease may not be considered.
The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can also carry other disease-causing bacteria, like Babesiosis. If bitten by a tick with multiple pathogenic species, co-infection can happen. This can make it tough to identify Lyme disease because it can be overshadowed by other infections.
Why Insurance Companies Won’t Cover Lyme Disease
Lyme disease won’t only deprive you of the ability to perform normal activities. It can also harm your financial status because insurance companies don’t cover the treatment for this disease.
Lyme disease is the most widespread vector-borne illness in the United States. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tabulated 42,743 cases. Imagine how many millions of dollars would be lost to insurance companies if they have thousands of Lyme disease-stricken insurance holders? We have no true statement from the insurance industry of the USA government on this, but plenty of theories aim to explain why.
As mentioned earlier, Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose. Often, complications are already present upon formal diagnosis. Even after it is treated, insurance companies may still have to pay for the treatment of the complications.
Two-week antibiotic treatment is not effective for all cases. This could mean long-term treatment, which is bad for the insurance business.
Lyme Disease Statistics
CDC received 42,743 reports of Lyme disease cases, both confirmed and probable. This number is 17% higher than that of 2016.
Listed below are the states with most Lyme disease cases in 2017.
Number of Confirmed Cases per State
Connecticut – 1381
Maine – 1424
Maryland – 1194
Minnesota – 1408
New Jersey – 3629
New York – 3502
Pennsylvania – 9250
Virginia – 1041
Wisconsin – 1794
Lyme disease incidence is highest in the northeastern part of the country. But as of 2019, cases are rising in places where it used to be uncommon.
The most probable reason why this disease is most prevalent in this region is the weather. Spring comes early and fall is longer in the Northeast, which gives deer ticks more time to feed and mature.
Experts suggest that climate change and migration cause the rise in Lyme disease cases in previously less affected areas.
Lyme Disease Common Symptoms
The main symptoms of Lyme disease are not determined because they also define other ailments. But if you experience any of these following a tick bite or a holiday in a state where Lyme disease is prevalent, consult a doctor right away:
This is the most common symptom, which occurs to 70-80% of infected individuals. The rash starts to appear within 3-30 days following a tick bite; 7 days on average. It gradually expands and may reach up to 12 inches in diameter, and form a “bull’s eye”. The rash may be warm to touch.
Rashes may also indicate fungal or viral infection and allergy. It can also be a response to a certain medication.
Fever, headache and joint pain
These may be experienced days after the tick bite. Unfortunately, many other ailments are also characterized by these symptoms. Without a rash, infected individuals surmise that it’s just flu.
Lyme disease and mold toxicity may also occur at the same time, and one can obscure the other during diagnostic procedure.
Increased heart rate happens when there is infection because the body wants to speed up the transportation of antibodies towards the site of infection.
But palpitations can also be a manifestation that the bacteria have entered the tissues of the heart. This is called “Lyme carditis”, which is a life-threatening complication of Lyme disease.
Dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath
Lyme disease treatment may not be provided immediately because these symptoms are also common indicators of a variety of health problems. These include anemia, hypoglycemia, hypotension, anxiety, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart problems.
How Dangerous is Lyme Disease
Neuro Lyme Disease and Complication if Left Untreated
The neurological effects Lyme disease are more devastating and difficult to treat.
Lyme neuroborreliosis (LNB) may be mixed up with other neurological problems such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, both are chronic and scary. LNB is often overlooked or unrecognized because the small numbers of specialists and research of this condition.
Symptoms of LNB
LNB occurs in almost 15% of Lyme cases. It usually starts with a backpain that radiates down the legs. This is followed by tingling sensation, numbness, and weakness.
Lyme infected individuals may also experience facial nerve palsy, where one side of the face is temporarily paralyzed. Most recover after few weeks to months of treatment, but some may retain this symptom for the rest of their life.
If left untreated, LNB can lead to total loss of motor and sensory nerve function.
How does the infection reach the brain?
It is purported that Lyme disease-causing bacteria cross the blood-brain barrier by slithering through the thin membrane or by means of trans-cellular passage.
Once in the brain, localized immune response is activated and immune cells flood the area. This increases the number of chemokines (signaling proteins that attract white blood cells), which promotes a stronger inflammatory response.
It only gets worse…
Brain infection may cause a misguided reaction, wherein the immune cells destroy the normal brain cells. This results to “brain fog”, autonomic dysfunction, neuropathic pain, memory impairment, and psychiatric problems. Neurological lyme disease recovery is more difficult at this point.
Chronic Lyme Disease and Their Complications If Left Untreated
Lyme disease-causing bacteria may enter the tissues of the heart, causing severe inflammation that forms a blockade. This can cause chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fainting.
This condition is called Lyme carditis. If left untreated, could lead to permanent damage to the heart muscles that can only be resolved with a permanent pacemaker.
Loss of Bone Density
Lyme arthritis usually shows up long after the early signs of Lyme disease are gone. It is characterized by painful and swollen joints. Chronic arthritis can decrease the bone density.
Heart Attack and Stroke
Chronic Lyme disease means prolonged infection, which can damage the cells that make up the blood vessel linings. This increases the susceptibility of blood vessels to absorb cholesterol and build plaques. These plaques raise the chances of stroke and heart attack.
Chronic inflammation may form scarring within the kidneys. These scars may decrease kidney efficiency or lead to chronic kidney disease. Prolonged lyme disease treatment may also hurt the kidneys.
Lyme Disease Treatment
Treatment should be sought immediately after diagnosis to prevent complications.
When Antibiotics Are Given
Early stage Lyme infection is conventionally treated with antibiotics. The most common drug used for this is doxycycline, which is taken for 10 days to 3 weeks. Cefuroxime and amoxicillin may also be prescribed for 2-3 weeks.
Ninety percent of Lyme disease cases are cured with antibiotics. If the aforementioned drugs are not effective, they are given other antibiotics, either orally or intravenously.
Treatment for late-stage Lyme infection is provided intravenously because the disease has already affected the central nervous system. The patient is usually put on intravenous treatment for 14-28 days. It is important to know that potent antibiotic cause side effects such as mild diarrhea and decreased white blood cell population.
Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome
Ten percent of individuals treated for Lyme disease still suffer some symptoms after the treatment. These include joint pain, confusion, and fatigue.
Lyme disease doctors call this “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome”, a condition that is hard to diagnose and is still to be understood.
They theorize that the body has formed a response against Lyme infection. And this response continuous long after the infection is treated.
When All Else Fails…
Alternative treatment is available for people who still suffer the symptoms of Lyme disease and for those whose infection are not yet diagnosed.
If conventional lyme disease treatment, there are lyme disease experts that use a different approach.
We have treated thousands of Lyme disease patients from over 25 countries across the globe.
At the Sponaugle Wellness Institute we have a full understanding of Lyme disease, acquired from the extensive research of Dr. Rick Sponaugle, Dr. Ruiz and team. Equipped with far-reaching knowledge on Lyme disease and advanced technology, we help Lyme patients reclaim their lives.
How do we do it?
We deal directly with the main cause at its source, treating the symptoms along the way. This is done by creating precise diagnosis and personalized treatment plans using PET scans.
We believe in holistic approach because we know that Lyme disease is systemic and makes a person prone to co-infections. It’s important to stimulate immune response in the brain so that Lyme spirochetes can be killed during the brain detox of Lyme neurotoxins.
Everything in One Roof
Diagnosis, treatment and accommodation are available in our clinic just a few miles away from the beautiful beaches of Florida’s gulf coast.
How to Avoid Catching Lyme Disease
Yes, the world already has ample stock of potent antibiotics. Plus, now you know it has us, the Sponaugle Wellness Institute. But it is still better to avoid Lyme infection.
You can do that by following these:
If you’re traveling to moist and humid places, avoid woody and grassy areas. Walk in the center of the trail and try not to get in contact with vegetation or brush.
- Use insect repellents that are approved by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These may contain DEET, IR3535, or picaridin.
- Wear light-colored clothing if you’re going outdoors so that you can easily spot ticks.
- After being outdoors, check yourself, your things, and your pets for ticks. Remove ticks with tweezer and make sure to kill it.
- Observe for signs of symptoms within the first 3-30 days following the tick bite. Seek medical attention as soon as a rash appears. Headaches, joint pain, and fever are also early signs of Lyme infection.
- Maintain your yard to eliminate possible tick sanctuaries.
- Groom your pets regularly so that you’re aware if they are hosting ticks. Take your pets to the veterinarian as soon as a tick is spotted.
Lyme disease is a sly ailment that can lead to debilitating conditions and death. Never underestimate this disease because the infection can spread quickly, and before you know it: your life is not the same way anymore.
Find the best Lyme disease treatment centers near you as soon as the first symptom manifest. Schedule a checkup after traveling to a moist or humid location. Practice extra precaution if you live in areas where Lyme disease incidence is high.
Follow the treatment protocol given by the attending physician. If the infection is already gone but you’re still suffering from the symptoms, consider making an appointment with us, the Lyme specialists from the Sponaugle Wellness Institute.