Lyme Disease: Tick-Borne Infection Mimics Various Health Problems
Dr. Nilay Shah and Dr. Michael Wald
You just don’t feel right.
If you’ve ever experienced a different kind of fatigue—an exhaustion you’ve never felt before, perhaps with joint or muscle pain in various parts of your body—you might have Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a troublesome, tick-borne infection caused by the bacterial spirochete Borrellia Burdorferi. Other symptoms of Lyme disease can include nagging headaches, memory loss, unexplained depression and nerve pain. Here is what you should know about Lyme disease treatment—and the medical challenges that may limit your potential for full recovery.
Lyme disease is often first recognized by the appearance of one or more skin rashes called “a bullseye rash,” or erythema chronicum migrans (ECM). The rash is caused by a local infection that may spread throughout the body. In 40 to 50 percent of cases, however, there’s no visible rash. As a result, Lyme disease can go undiagnosed for months or even years.
Lyme disease starts locally, but it can invade all parts of the body, including the skin, muscles, joints, nervous system, cardiovascular system, eye tissue, sinuses, gastrointestinal tissue and even lungs. It is also thought that various autoimmune problems can be caused or triggered by the Lyme disease bacterial spirochete, and because these conditions might confuse doctors, the disease may go undiagnosed.
We’ve seen patients with Lyme disease who have gone from doctor to doctor and been given multiple diagnoses, including depression, arthritis, and memory and cognitive defects. Lyme disease that affects the nervous system is called neuroboreliosis.
Some doctors believe that Lyme disease can always be cured with a month-long course of antibiotics, but other doctors believe that the condition can become chronic and even progressive, again possibly resulting in misdiagnoses. Some conditions that might be confused with Lyme disease include multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, hepatitis, bone marrow problems, arthritis, muscle pain, nerve problems and other infections.
Testing for infection
The diagnosis of Lyme disease is usually a clinical one, but it also can be supported by blood tests that reveal the presence of certain antibodies. First-stage testing is known as the enzyme link immunoabsorbent test (ELISA) and indirect immunofluorescence microscopy. The Western blot or immunoblot assays are used for secondary-level testing. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specified what constitutes a positive test result, a patient whose results don’t meet the CDC’s specifications isn’t necessarily free of of Lyme disease. Unfortunately, someone can have Lyme disease even with fewer lab findings than those set by the CDC. In fact, a person with Lyme disease can have negative tests for up to five years after they start experiencing symptoms.
There are other tests that can support the diagnosis of Lyme disease which are not performed by most mainstream doctors but which are backed by substantial research; those include PCR testing and DNA amplification testing. It’s essential that patients also are tested for co-infections, including Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Epstein Barr, CMV, HV6 and others.
Integrated healing approach
An integrated medical approach for Lyme disease considers a patient’s recent disease history, symptoms, genetic tendencies, and any other health issues. Identifying other possible infections is also part of a basic integrative approach. After all, there are several tick-borne infections besides Lyme disease, including various viruses and parasites that might have been overlooked. Because many health problems can mimic Lyme disease, we have developed our Blood Detective Longevity Plan to uncover hidden health issues that might be confused for Lyme disease.
Lyme disease can manifest itself in many different ways, depending on the individual patient. And every patient is individual—that’s why we pride ourselves on developing individualized medical and nutritional approaches that exactly fit our patients’ needs.
Dr. Michael Wald has written more than 10 books on health. He is regularly featured on Channel 12 Westchester News and is the director of nutrition at Integrated Medicine and Nutrition in Mount Kisco, NY. For patients with Lyme disease and other infections, he works with Dr. Nilay Shah, a holistic neurologist, to produce the best results possible. To reach the doctors, call 914.242.8844 (ext. 1). For info, visit IntMedNY.com or follow Dr. Wald on Twitter @DrMichaelWald.