What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness. The bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi, is a spirochete. Similar to syphilis in structure, the spirochete's have an amazing ability to bore through many different tissues of the body. They often like to set up shop in the intermediate depths, such as the cartilage that attaches to the ends of bones. This tissue is typically avascular, so the body's defense system has a hard time reaching the intruders.
What are the symptoms?
Because the bacteria are capable of getting into virtually any system of the body, the symptoms can vary greatly. I view Lyme disease as an opportunistic entity. It follows the path of least resistance.
About 70-80% of people get a rash 3-30 days after being bitten by an infected tick. The rash, called erythema migrans, is usually red and expands outward from the site of the bite. It can also show up in patches on other parts of the body. If you were bitten by a tick and get a red, bulls-eye rash, that is considered a positive sign of infection. Go see your Lyme-literate Doctor immediately! Catching the infection in the early stages is of paramount importance. There is a much greater likelihood of eradicating the bacteria during the early stages of infection, before they burrow deep into the body.
Other symptoms that are typical with the onset of the disease are Flu-like. They can include, but are not limited to, headache, achy muscles, stiff neck, low grade fevers, high fevers, bells palsy, dizziness and/or heart palpitations.
Take special note, and go see your local Lyme-literate Doctor if you have these symptoms anytime, but especially if you know you have been bitten by a tick in the past 3-15 days, or if it is Summer and not the Flu season.
What if I don't get the rash or feel like I have the Flu?
If 70-80% of people get the rash, that means the other 20-30% don't!
Sometimes a person will get infected and not get a rash or any Flu-like symptoms. If this is the case, the disease will often show up later as Chronic Lyme Disease.
What is Chronic Lyme Disease?
Chronic Lyme Disease can manifest in many different ways. Three months, to several years after a person is infected and treated, or goes untreated, they may experience strange neurological symptoms of burning, shooting pain, numbness and/or tingling anywhere in the body, but often these symptoms occur in the extremities.
An infected person may experience extreme fatigue, forgetfulness, debilitating joint pain, tidal fevers, visual/hearing changes, heart damage, psychological disturbances, anxiety or irritation.
Other people who suffer from the disease have difficulty receiving the nutrients from their food, they can lose or gain weight uncontrollably, or develop food allergies. They can show symptoms of a weakened immune system, catching head and chest colds all Winter long, while having no physical pain at all.
One of the toughest things about Lyme is that it can manifest in so many different ways. That is why I approach each case individually, finding out how it is affecting you, and working with you to alleviate symptoms so you can get your life back!
How do you know if you have it?
Western medicine has many different tests but unfortunately none of them are 100% accurate. Lyme should be evaluated with a clinical diagnosis, meaning the Doctor should examine the patient for signs of the disease, evaluating current and past symptoms, then determining the likelihood of the disease. Western medical blood tests should also be performed, but they should not be solely relied upon.
What should you do if you find a tick?
If the tick is attached to you, remove it immediately. Use tweezers or a tick remover. If using tweezers, grab the tick as close to your skin as possible, lightly squeeze, and gently pull. Do not grab the belly of tick, light it on fire or apply nail polish or Vaseline, these removal techniques can cause the tick to regurgitate while still attached to you. If the tick is infected, this may cause it to infect you. Always clean the site and wash your hands thoroughly after removing a tick. Click here to watch a video of how to properly remove a tick.
If you would like to send the tick to laboratory to have it tested, the Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania has a great booklet with lots of Lyme information. The last page has a list of diagnostic laboratories which specialize in tick-borne illnesses.
Is Lyme the only pathogen black legged ticks carry?
The more you know about Lyme, the better your chances for recognizing if you or someone close to you is infected.
There is so much information about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. The more you know the better chances you have of avoiding it altogether, or catching the symptoms early so you can steer clear of Chronic Lyme.
Once infected, especially if the bacteria have had time to proliferate, there are often many things a person will need to do in order to feel like them self again. Lyme is a dynamic bacteria and in order to beat it, or live harmoniously with it, you will likely need to address it with a dynamic approach. Chinese medicine offers several techniques which have been useful for folks dealing with pain, mental and physical fatigue, psycho-emotional distress, and neurological difficulties. Give a call and set up an appointment if you have been diagnosed with Lyme, or if you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms. I will be happy to treat you, share information with you and help put you in contact with other specialists in the field.
Berry Franko, L.Ac, LMT