As with most chronic illness, Lyme Disease is often misunderstood by outsiders and sometimes even by those who suffer from it. I’ve been asked loads of questions during the past two years since my diagnosis, and many times I find myself stumbling over my words and searching for ways to simplify Lyme in a way that can easily be grasped. It’s no easy task, and I’m still working on my spiel, but the more I speak out the better I get at explaining things (or at least that’s what I’d like to think). Keeping these things in mind, I decided to write a short post answering the most common questions that I get asked about Lyme. If you have a burning question or just generally want to know more, you can always contact me or post in the comments.
1.) What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is the most prominent infectious disease in the world. Last year 300,000 cases were reported, making this an epidemic of greater proportions than both AIDS and breast cancer combined. Lyme Disease is a stealth bacteria in the shape of a corkscrew that has the capability to inhabit and invade all parts of the human body, including deep tissue, joints, bones, and even vital organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, and liver. To put it simply, Lyme Disease is a deeply debilitating bacterial infection that is easy to catch and difficult to eradicate.
In addition to the Lyme bacteria, what is referred to as Lyme Disease in fact also includes an umbrella of other bacteria, viruses, and parasites (known as co-infections) that are often times passed along with the Lyme infection. These co-infections can be just as debilitating as the Lyme bacteria itself, and they also make treating the illness much more complicated. In effect, a person battling Lyme Disease is not only only fighting one disease or infection, but many. The most common co-infections are bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever) and Babesia, which is a cousin to Malaria.
2.) How do you get Lyme disease?
Lyme Disease is most typically known to be contracted by the bite of an infected Deer Tick . Although these facts are true, Lyme Disease is also carried by at least 8 additional species of ticks, including The Lone Star Tick, which is common in Texas. Research has also shown that other vectors such as fleas, flies, spiders, mosquitos, and mites also carry Lyme Disease and may be just as common vectors for the disease. As if this weren’t enough, there have been many research studies that confirm that Lyme Disease can be sexually transmitted and can even be passed through the placenta during childbirth. Sadly, many mothers unknowingly pass this disease on to their babies.
3.) I thought Lyme disease was easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. Why are you still sick?
If caught in the very early stages, a 28-day course of antibiotics is sufficient in most cases, and although recent evidence shows that antibiotics don’t clear an early infection in up to 36% of patients, the chances of full recovery with little to no residual damage are much greater in the early stages of the disease. If, however, Lyme Disease goes untreated for more than 6 months, it is then considered a chronic infection, which requires a much more virulent effort that can sometimes take years to eradicate.
4.) What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Lyme is most commonly known for causing joint pain, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. But did you know that it can also cause symptoms like, neurological impairments, heart defects, vertigo, seizures or seizure-like activity, muscle spasms, hormone imbalance, and air hunger? There are presently over 50 different symptoms associated with Lyme, and since it can literally effect every body system, it can be quite devastating. I’ve listed out my symptoms here to give you a better idea of what life with Lyme can look like.
5.) What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
The most common treatment for Lyme is the use of either high doses of antibiotics, often times administered intravenously like chemotherapy, or a variety of powerful herbs. Both antibiotics and herbs have been shown to kill high quantities of Lyme pathogens, but since no two people are infected with the same pathogenic makeup, it’s often times difficult and time consuming to find a combination of therapies that works. The result of this type of trial and error approach is that it can often take many months or years to find a treatment plan that works for each individual, which is a drain on time, resources, and energy.
6.) How long does it usually take to get better?
That depends greatly on how sick the individual is, how long they have been infected with Lyme, if there are co-infections or other complicating issues present (such as heavy metal or mold toxicity, or a secondary illness), and how well one can tolerate the common pharmaceuticals and herbs are that are used to eradicate illness. Some individuals may heal from Chronic Lyme in 10-14 months while others are confined to bed for 8, 9, 10 years.
7.) Can Lyme Disease kill you?
I’m not going to lie, I’ve googled this question on more than one (very low) occasion, somehow hoping that this disease either wouldn’t get the best of me or that it would at least take me quickly. The google results were never quite satisfying, but suffice to say that Lyme can certainly be fatal in some cases. If the infection is allowed to spread for long enough it can cause serious implications, such as sudden heart attacks, seizures, and strokes, even in young people. The disease process with Lyme is often slow and cruel, but even though it may not be fatal as quickly as a terminal illness like cancer, it certainly should be taken very seriously as it has the capability to be just as deadly.
8.) Where can I learn more about Lyme Disease?