Despite the fact that Lyme disease is a prevalent disorder on every continent bar Antarctica, we still don’t have a good grip on it. Most people know it’s spread by tick bites and is predominant in the north-eastern United States, which is true, but only relatively so. Lyme disease continues to spread around the world, with numbers of cases increasing year after year. Unfortunately, our medical knowledge is not keeping up with the incessant spread of the disorder, meaning that many doctors and healthcare professionals are woefully unequipped when it comes to treating Lyme effectively. Here are four primary reasons why Lyme disease is so often misunderstood by doctors around the world.
Failure To Differentiate Between Acute And Chronic Lyme
The baseline reason for the misunderstanding around Lyme disease is the failure to differentiate between its acute and chronic forms. This problem is compounded by the fact that chronic Lyme is not strictly a legitimate disease; many official bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. have yet to officially register chronic Lyme as a demonstrable condition. Acute Lyme disease is well documented and accepted. It takes the form of flu-like symptoms, often accompanied by a distinctive bullseye rash. These manifest shortly after the offending tick bite, and dissipate after a few weeks.
If the disease is not caught and treated within this crucial window, in time it will progress to chronic Lyme, which comes with a whole new set of symptoms that bear little resemblance to the initial set. Many doctors only quantify the existence of the acute form of the disease, and don’t take chronic Lyme into account.
Symptoms That Mimic Other Disorders
Part of the problem surrounding chronic Lyme disease is that it mimics other disorders. This is even evident in the acute stage, where Lyme is nearly indistinguishable from the flu. Due to the fact that it is an unofficial, outlier disorder, chronic Lyme is often misdiagnosed as something else entirely. The rate of misdiagnoses among Lyme patients is extremely high, and probably higher than we know, as a large number of people are probably living with their misdiagnosis, none the wiser. Symptoms of chronic Lyme include joint pain, muscle aches, swelling, stiffness and fatigue. Further issues can include cardiovascular and neurological complications.
There is no one set of definitive symptoms for chronic Lyme; because the disorder manifests as an interplay between the borrelia bacteria (the causative agent) and the immune system, symptoms often vary wildly between patients. This is another reason why it’s so hard to pinpoint Lyme. Issues can appear soon after the initial tick bite, or weeks, months, even years later. By the time symptoms show, the tick bite is long forgotten, if it was even noticed in the first place. Lyme is commonly misdiagnosed as MS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, early ALS, early Alzheimer’s or arthritis, among others. This tendency towards misdiagnosis has earned Lyme disease its unofficial nickname, ‘the great imitator’.
Treating With Antibiotics Only
Acute Lyme disease can usually be treated solely with antibiotics. Chronic Lyme requires a more thorough approach. However, doctors will routinely attempt to treat the symptoms of chronic Lyme using antibiotics alone. Not only has the borrelia bacteria likely become stronger and more resistant to common antibiotics over the time it’s been in the system, but it is also not the only thing causing symptoms in the first place. A large part of chronic Lyme symptoms stem from the immune system overreacting to the infection, causing swelling, pain and fatigue. These issues can’t be treated with antibiotics alone; they require a rebalance of nutrients in the body via supplements and diet alterations.
Make Well is one such company that produces these specialised supplements. Their all-natural range is routinely used by doctors to support the treatment of chronic diseases such as Lyme. Continued and sustained use of antibiotics is likely to cause the patient more issues in the long run; once the immune system is in such an inflamed state, it can react to even trace amounts of the borrelia bacteria. This means that antibiotics are ineffective on their own when it comes to chronic Lyme. A successful treatment path must tackle both the bacterial and the inflammation symptoms simultaneously.
Ignoring Dangerous Co-Infections
Unfortunately, Lyme disease is not the only thing you can catch from ticks. When assessing a Lyme patient, many doctors aren’t clued in on the fact there are probably numerous infections working in tandem, compounding Lyme symptoms or causing new ones all together. These co-infections are startlingly common in Lyme patients, and the chances of catching one or more simultaneously with Lyme disease are high. They include babeiosa, bartonellosis, anaplasma ehrlichia and chlamydia pneumoniae, among others. These infections need to be resolved alongside the dominant Lyme infection. Many doctors don’t even test for these co-infections, let alone treat them. The result is a long road of frustration and continued illness for patients.