Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is a spreading infectious disease caused by at least three species of bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia. Borrelia burgdorferi is the predominant cause of Lyme disease in the United States, whereas Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are implicated in most European cases.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Borrelia is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks belonging to certain species of the genus Ixodes (the hard-bodied 'hard ticks'). Early manifestations of infection may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. Left untreated, late manifestations involving the joints, heart, and nervous system can occur. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated with antibiotics, especially if diagnosis and treatment occur early in the course of illness. Late, delayed, or inadequate treatment can lead to late manifestations of Lyme disease which can be disabling and difficult to treat.
Some Lyme disease patients who have completed a course of antibiotic treatment continue to have symptoms such as severe fatigue, sleep disturbance, and cognitive difficulties. Some groups have argued that "chronic" Lyme disease is responsible for a range of medically unexplained symptoms beyond the objectively recognized manifestations of late Lyme disease, and that additional, long-term antibiotic treatment is warranted in such cases. Of four randomized controlled trials of long-term ceftriaxone and doxycycline treatment courses in patients with ongoing symptoms, two found no benefit, and two found inconsistent benefits and significant side effects and risks from further antibiotic treatment. Most expert groups, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Academy of Neurology, have found that existing scientific evidence does not support a role for ongoing antibiotic treatment in such cases.
The map above shows the Lyme Disease Risk in the United States. The map is supplied by the Center for Disease Control. Since the map is a few years old, it should be noted that Lyme Disease Risk has increased and spread in recent years. It is our intention to suggest natural options to dealing with the disease in its 3 stages.
The rash in this picture is the typical symptom of a tick bite that produces lyme disease. It should be noted that there are tick bites that DO NOT produce such a rash. The absence of a rash does not necessarily mean that you do not have lyme disease. A blood test is necessary to determine whether or not you have lyme disease. In its early stage, antibiotic treatment can completely eradicate the disease. Stages 2 and 3 can be much more difficult to treat.
Stage 1 – Early localized infectionCommon bullseye rash pattern associated with Lyme Disease.Characteristic "bulls-eye"-like rash caused by Lyme disease.
The classic sign of early local infection is a circular, outwardly expanding rash called erythema chronicum migrans (also erythema migrans or EM), which occurs at the site of the tick bite 3 to 32 days after being bitten. The rash is red, and may be warm, but is generally painless. Classically, the innermost portion remains dark red and becomes indurated; the outer edge remains red; and the portion in between clears – giving the appearance of a bullseye. However, the partial clearing is uncommon, and thus a true bullseye occurs in as few as 9% of cases.
Erythema migrans is thought to occur in about 80% of infected patients. Patients can also experience flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle soreness, fever, and malaise.
Lyme disease can progress to later stages even in patients who do not develop a rash.
Stage 2 – Early disseminated infection
Within days to weeks after the onset of local infection, the borrelia bacteria may begin to spread through the bloodstream. Erythema chronicum migrans may develop at sites across the body that bear no relation to the original tick bite. Another skin condition, which is apparently absent in North American patients, is borrelial lymphocytoma, a purplish lump that develops on the ear lobe, nipple, or scrotum. Other discrete symptoms include migrating pain in muscles, joint, and tendons, and heart palpitations and dizziness caused by changes in heartbeat.
Acute neurological problems, which appear in 15% of untreated patients, encompasses a spectrum of disorders. One is facial or Bell's palsy, which is the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face. Another common neurologic manifestation is meningitis, characterized by severe headaches, neck stiffness, and sensitivity to light. Radiculoneuritis causes shooting pains that may interfere with sleep and abnormal skin sensations. Mild encephalitis may lead to memory loss, sleep disturbances, or changes in mood or affect. In addition, simple altered mental status as the sole presenting symptom has been reported in early neuroborreliosis.
Stage 3 – Late persistent infection
After several months, untreated or inadequately treated patients may go on to develop severe and chronic symptoms affecting many organs of the body including the brain, nerves, eyes, joints and heart. Myriad disabling symptoms can occur.
Chronic neurologic symptoms occur in up to 5% of untreated patients. A polyneuropathy manifested primarily as shooting pains, numbness, and tingling in the hands or feet may develop. A neurologic syndrome called Lyme encephalopathy is associated with subtle cognitive problems such as difficulties with concentration and short term memory. Such patients may also experience profound fatigue. Other problems such as depression and fibromyalgia are no more common in people who have been infected with Lyme than in the general population. Chronic encephalomyelitis, which may be progressive, may involve cognitive impairment, weakness in the legs, awkward gait, facial palsy, bladder problems, vertigo, and back pain. In rare cases, frank psychosis has been attributed to chronic Lyme disease effects, including mis-diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Panic attack and anxiety can occur, also delusional behavior, including somatoform delusions, sometimes accompanied by a depersonalization or derealization syndrome similar to what was seen in the past in the prodromal or early stages of general paresis.
Lyme arthritis usually affects the knees. In a minority of patients arthritis can occur in other joints, including the ankles, elbows, wrist, hips, and shoulders. Pain is often mild or moderate, usually with swelling at the involved joint. Baker's cysts may form and rupture. In some cases joint erosion occurs.
Acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans (ACA) is a chronic skin disorder observed primarily in Europe. ACA begins as a reddish-blue patch of discolored skin, usually in sun-exposed regions of the upper or lower limbs. The lesion slowly atrophies, and the skin may become so thin that it resembles wrinkled cigarette paper.
Natural Treatments for Lyme Disease
Although the list of treatments can be overwhelming, there are some key supplements Lyme disease patients should take including a whole food multi-vitamin, magnesium malate, essential fatty acids (omega-3's), probiotics and a B-complex. Also consider Co-Q10, a mushroom immune formula, B-12, enzymes, and greens.
In order to receive treatment tailored to your own unique needs, it is best to be treated by a certified holistic practitioner knowledgeable about Lyme disease and/or any associated conditions you may be experiencing.
You may also want to consider homeopathic remedies which can help with stage 2 and 3 symptoms. Since homeopathic remedies are extremely individualized, a certified practitioner is recommended. It should also be noted that treatment effect can take months to achieve due to the many layers of bacterial infection that must be eliminated from the body first before the Borrelia bacterium can be treated.
As always, your best health is our first concern. So please seek out someone with experience in treating your specific symptoms.