Lyme disease has become an epidemic throughout the United States. Historically thought of a condition that only affected people in the Northeast, Lyme disease is readily diagnosed in all 50 states and recent estimates indicate that Lyme disease has been 10 times under-reported. The bacteria that causes Lyme, Borrelia burgdorferi, is primarily transmitted by ticks, however Borrelia has also been found in other vectors including birds, mice and insects.
The Great Imitator.
Lyme disease, and its co-infections such as Bartonella, Babesia, Erlichia and Rickettsia, has been referred to as the “Great Imitator” because of the many symptoms an infected person can exhibit.
Early Lyme disease presents with flu-like symptoms and usually follows an exposure. However, persistent Lyme infection presents as fatigue, pain in muscles and joints, headaches and migraines, poor concentration, and fevers or sweats which may occur for months or years before being properly diagnosed.
There are a number of conditions that may be related to or caused by Lyme disease, including multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and ALS (Lou Gerhig’s disease). In alignment with our goal of attempting to identify and treat the cause of any symptom, Lyme should be ruled out as the potential cause for any presentation consistent with a diagnosis of these other diseases.
A disease that is difficult to diagnose.
There are many difficulties associated with diagnosing Lyme disease, so a Lyme-literate physician should be consulted for proper diagnoses.
Less than 50% of people with Lyme disease ever recall having a tick bite, and only 15% develop the classic bulls-eye rash, so it is important not to rely on these antiquated hallmarks. Conventional blood tests using the ELISA method have also proven not to be sensitive, so Western Blot methodology should be employed. However, all Western Blots are not created equal. National reference laboratories such as Quest and LabCorp use only a few “bands” in their Western Blot analysis, reducing the specificity and sensitivity.
The physicians at Marin Natural Medicine Clinic order specific tests for Lyme disease and its co-infections through the most specific and sensitive laboratories for diagnosing tick-borne diseases. Recent advances in a culture for Borrelia has also proven helpful in diagnosing Lyme disease.
Integrative treatment for positive outcomes.
Persistent Lyme disease and other tick-borne co-infections can be very challenging to treat. Our experience combining conventional and natural treatments, or taking an integrative approach, minimizes side effects and improves patient outcomes. For many people with a tick-borne infection, there are other compounding factors involved that contribute to their symptoms and interfere with treating the infection. This may include hormonal imbalances, viral infections, heavy metal toxicity, genetic variations, gastrointestinal dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, or mental/emotional illness. When attempting to treat complex chronic illness such Lyme disease, it is important that all variables be considered.