Lyme disease is complicated, to say the least. Some people think it’s a conspiracy, while others say that it’s grossly over-diagnosed. Then there are those people who are certain they have it due to their symptoms, but are left feeling lost after tests come back saying they do not.
With all of the inaccuracies surrounding Lyme disease, its difficult to weed through the outdated information and figure out what is true and what is not. Learning Lyme the right way is something that is important not only for doctors and medical professionals, but for anyone who suspects they have it or knows someone who does.
So what is the most recent information regarding Lyme?
For starters, the full name for Lyme is Borrelia Burgdorferi. PLEASE – don’t call it “Lymes Disease”. There is no “s” at the end, and it’s not referencing a person – it’s Lyme.
Borrelia is a stealth microbe that is very advanced, especially since it has been evolving for a long time. It is a spirochete, meaning it is shaped like a corkscrew, which benefits it by allowing the microbe to easily burrow into our muscles and tissues.
Borrelia greatly prefers collagen, and is often found in collagen-rich tissues such as our joints, heart, and brain, where it can cause problems such as memory loss, brain fog, carditis, joint pain, and widespread inflammation.
It also has the ability to shed its corkscrew shape and live inside our cells, well hidden from antibiotics, lab testing, and our immune system.
Learning Lyme: Symptoms
Acute Lyme disease is when you were recently bitten, and get immediate symptoms. This is the easiest stage to treat, because the Borrelia hasn’t had time to burrow itself deep into your tissues and trigger systemic inflammation. Acute Lyme is often missed, because ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, making them easy to overlook.
Acute Lyme Symptoms
- Bulls-eye rash (fewer than 50% of people remember getting a rash)
- Flu symptoms such as fatigue, fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches
- Neck stiffness
Late-stage Lyme (or chronic Lyme) disease occurs when acute Lyme isn’t treated right away because it isn’t recognized as Lyme, or symptoms don’t show up. Chronic Lyme has many bigger symptoms, and is usually lifelong at this point. Though, even if it gets to this stage, it’s still treatable with herbal therapy.
Chronic Lyme disease is what I have been fighting.
Symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
- Joint & muscle pain
- Muscle twitching
- Chronic flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, and neck stiffness
- Bell’s palsy
- Brain fog
- Sensitivity to loud noises
- Problems sleeping
- Blurry vision and floaters in eyes
- Dizziness and tinnitus
- Tremors and tingling in hands and feet
- Chest pain & heart palpitations
- Air hunger
Learning Lyme: Where does it come from?
Lyme is not a conspiracy. I know it’s easy to get caught up in conspiracy theories, but this is one that is certainly not true. Some people believe that Lyme disease originated on Plum Island, where there was ongoing research on diseases, and somehow was exposed to the rest of the United States.
Since Plum Island is only a few miles off the coast of Lyme, Connecticut where the first outbreak occurred in 1975, this theory has gained believers. However, research shows that a 5,300 year old man who was found frozen in the Alps, had evidence of Borrelia in his body. That far predates the outbreak in Lyme, CT in 1975.
Lyme is in every state. Many doctors hold the view that Lyme disease is only in the northeast. While it’s most concentrated in the northeast, Lyme is present in every state thanks to birds. Ticks are made to hitch rides so they can continue to travel, finding new food sources.
They often find themselves on birds, which are frequently traveling, as are we. Therefore, Lyme is not only found in every state in America, but also in many other countries.
Lyme is not only transmitted by ticks. Lyme disease is spread through biting insects; usually ticks (which are arachnids, not insects)- though it’s possible for spiders, flies, and mosquitoes to spread it as well. It’s also suggested by research that Lyme can be sexually transmitted, and can also infect a baby in-utero if the mother has it.
Additionally, ticks do not need to be attached for 24 hours in order to transmit Lyme to the host. They can transmit Borrelia and dozens of other co-infections in a much shorter amount of time, so don’t assume that just because you caught the tick in a few hours that you don’t have Lyme.
Not everyone gets the bulls-eye rash. Contrary to popular belief, the bulls-eye rash (erythema migrans) only shows up in about 1/2 of people with Lyme. This can happen for many reasons, because each person’s individual body chemistry and immune system is different.
Other times, the rash shows up somewhere you can’t easily see, such as on the scalp or back. There are also at least 300 different strains of Borrelia, so it’s possible that the rash is not a symptom of all of them.
Learning Lyme is not something that’s simple, because the disease is so complex.
But if you suspect you have Lyme disease, it’s not something to panic about. There are ways to minimize symptoms and treat it so your body can heal.
Next up in the series so you can continue learning Lyme: Treatments for Lyme Disease.
This post was originally published May 4, 2017. It was updated May 1, 2018.