Deer tick in grass
Deer tick using a technique called questing, or holding on to the edge of plant with back legs, while extending front hooked legs. Tick BehaviorsExit Site - Missouri Dept. Conservation

Lyme Disease Symptoms and Treatments

By Wendy Wells, NMD.

The History of Lyme Disease

In Lyme, Connecticut, following a breakout of what seemed like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis during, an arthropod vector was suspected due to the summer's early fall onset in 1975. In 1982, Willy Burgdorfer isolated spirochetes from Ixodes ticks and demonstrated these matched those in the serum of patients with Lyme. Hence the name of the spirochete was Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb).

Focus Timeline
1900Effective anti-syphilitic, Salvarsan, (syphilis, a spirochete disease) discovered by Paul EhrlichExit Site, MD.
1908Ehrlich awarded Nobel Prize for the arsenic-containing compound to treat syphilis.
1952 to presentHighly classified US Government animal disease research laboratory, Plum IslandExit Site, in close proximity to Old Lyme, ConnecticutExit Site.
1974First Lyme symptoms, 14-year old boy, Lyme, CT.
1975Lyme disease first recognized by Allen Steere, MD, in Lyme, CT.
1982The causative Lyme spirochete was discovered by Dr. Willy Burgdorfer.
1983Borrelia burgdorferi was named after Dr. Willy Burgdorfer.
2003The Bradford Research Institute's High Resolution Microscope imaging of Lyme spirochete and cyst forms.
2004The Bradford Research Institute developed Bismacineā„¢, an injectable form of bismuth shown to be effective against spirochete and cyst forms.

Nick Harris of International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) states that Lyme is grossly under-reported. Dan Kinderleher, M.D., another expert stated on the Today Show on June 10, 2002 that the number of cases may be 100 times higher (18 million in the United States alone) than reported by the CDC.

Dr's W.T. Harvey, and Patricia Salvato, of Diversified Medical Practices in Houston Texas, discovered that Lyme was transmitted through more vectors than just ticks. Bb can also be carried by mosquitos, fleas and mites. More evidence suggests that Lyme may be reproductively transmitted. Some children were found to be born with Lyme, or contracted it through breast-feeding, according to Charles Ray Jones, MD, and the worlds leading specialist on Lyme disease in children. The Center for Disease Control stated that there is evidence that Bb is not affected by the blood processing prior to blood transfusions.

Unfortunately, many Lyme patients go undiagnosed due to the similarity of the symptoms to other illnesses. The American Lyme Disease Alliance (ALDA) conducted a study in which 31 patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Lyme was the cause of the illness of 90.3% or 28 of 31 of these patients.

Lyme Disease Stages

First Stage: Symptoms of Lyme is usually the appearance of a bull's eye rash on the skin within 1-2 weeks after a deer tick bite. It can appear as early as three days and as late as one month. Sometimes the first symptoms are flu-like symptoms such as joint aches, fatigue, and fever. The flu symptoms are the most common. They can last from 5-21 days.

Second Stage: If the disease goes untreated, it can spread to the blood and lymph system and affect the joints, the nervous system, and cardiovascular system. Weakness and paralysis can occur. Bell's palsy is common during this stage, especially if untreated.

Third Stage: A persistent infection occurs, which can lead to long periods of painful arthritis and neurological problems including brain fog, lack of concentration, severe fatigue.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

The first symptoms of the rash can be like a pimple that expands over days to a purple circle or arc. The center of the circle clears or can turn bluish and other rings can appear to make a bull's eye pattern. The rash can grow to be up to 20 inches across. In 2002, a study was released that stated that only 9% of patients with Lyme presented with this classic rash. There were 60% who had a general rash, 32% has a circular red rash. Almost all rashes disappear after 3-4 weeks.

The joints are affected by aches, swelling, stiffness, usually the large joints – knee, shoulder and elbow. The arthritis symptoms last for days to weeks and then improve.

The most common early neurological symptoms can be headaches, sleep disturbance, memory loss and mood disturbance. These often resolve in weeks to months regardless of treatment. In 10 - 15% of cases, symptoms of meningitis occur. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes around the brain and can cause episodes of severe headache, stiff neck, and light sensitivity. The headache is not soothed by other the counter medications. Some patients experience depression, irritability, "pins and needles", and "creeping crawling" sensations, feelings of numbness in arms or legs.

If the infection enters the conduction system of the heart, its rhythm can be affected. One may feel short of breath, palpitations, dizziness, chest pain. The most affected may be patients with existing heart conditions.

Spectrum of Signs and Symptoms

According to Patricia Kane, Ph.D., the following represent the range of Lyme disease symptoms.

  • Intense fatigue
  • Diminished or absent reflexes
  • Brain fog
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Memory loss (short & long term)
  • Joint pain/swelling/stiffness
  • Poor coordination/ataxia
  • Difficulty reading
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Unexplained chills & fevers
  • Rash
  • Sudden abrupt mood swings
  • Continual infections
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased ability to spell correctly
  • Unusual depression
  • Tremors
  • Disorientation
  • Burning/stabbing pain
  • Facial paralysis (Bell's Palsy)
  • GI distress/abdominal pain
  • Poor word retrieval/Aphasia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of temperature control
  • Heart palpitations/chest pain
  • Weight changes (loss or gain)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Cough
  • Vasculitis
  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Changes in taste or smell
  • Twitching of muscles (face or other)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive symptoms
  • Panic attacks
  • Changes in cerebral blood flow
  • Peripheral neuropathy/tingling/numbness
  • Number reversal
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Change in hearing/buzzing/tinnitus
  • Trigeminal neuralgia (TMJ)
  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Visual disturbance
  • List of Illnesses Possibly Confused With Lyme

    Due to the myriad of symptoms in various organ systems, this disease can mirror many other health problems. Dr. Jo Anne Whitaker has compiled a list of illnesses that can be confused with Lyme.

  • Acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease
  • Bell's Palsy
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Syphilis
  • Acute Transitory Atrioventricular Block
  • Allergies
  • Arrhythmia
  • Arthralgias
  • Arthritis
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic Encephalitis and Encephalomyelitis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
  • Cranial Polyneuritis
  • Demyelinating Disorders
  • Depression
  • Encephalopathy
  • Erythema Chronicum Migrans
  • Meningitis
  • Meningoencephalomyelitis
  • Myopericarditis
  • Progressive Visual Deterioration
  • Reversible Dementia
  • Sensory or Motor Radiculoneuropathies
  • Sleeping Disorders
  • Lyme Exposure Can Be Fatal

    Not often mentioned when discussing Lyme disease and the accompanying multitude of health challenges caused by this illness is the fact that Lyme can, indeed, be fatal. Lyme disease itself, or complications arising from the illness can induce or exacerbate neurological conditions including meningitis, encephalitis, seizures, cerebral vasculitis and atrophy. Pulmonary complications caused by or exacerbated by Lyme can include pneumonia, pleurisy, fatal Lyme carditis, and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) PMID 21189272 lymememorial.orgExit Site

    By the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) defining criteria for Lyme disease, there have been circa 30,000 newly diagnosed and reported cases of Lyme disease annually in the United States since 1996. In 2010 alone, there were roughly 30,000 new, reported cases. Lyme disease is an epidemic in the United States.

    CDC chart of Lyme Disease Cases in AmericaExit Site 1996 - 2010, and Lyme Disease as a Cause of DeathExit Site in the United States.

    Short Exposure and Transmission Risk

    In a study published in the November 2011 issue of Diagnostic Microbiology by Hynote, Mervine and Stricker, research based clinical evidence supports rapid transmission of Lyme disease following a tickbite. Previously, Lyme disease transmission to humans was thought to take a minimum of 36-48 hours for an infected tick attached to a human host. This study suggests that health care providers and individuals exposed to ticks should be aware that transmission of Lyme disease can and does occur more rapidly than previous animal models suggested. The researchers describe 3 cases in which transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochetal agent of Lyme disease, appears to have occurred in less than 24 hours based on the degree of tick engorgement, clinical signs of acute infection, and immunologic evidence of acute Lyme disease. Evidence suggests Lyme disease diagnosis should not be ruled out based on short tick attachment time in a subject with clinical evidence of B. burgdorferi infection. Source: PMID:22104184

    Lyme Disease Tick Bite Photos (Erythema Migrans)

    A key component of early diagnosis is recognition of the characteristic Lyme disease rash called erythema migrans. This rash often has a bull's-eye appearance and is observed in about 80% of Lyme disease patients.

    Multiple Erythema Migrans from tick bites

    Multiple Erythema Migrans. This 12-year-old boy developed multiple annular red plaques scattered over much of his body.


    Multiple Lyme tick bites

    Multiple Erythema Migrans.


    Single Lyme tick bite

    Single Erythema Migrans with Central Clearing.


    Single Lyme non-clearing tick bite

    Single Erythema Migrans lacking Central Clearing. Source: DermatlasExit Site


    Testing for Lyme Disease - What Can I Do?

    Most importantly, once you notice the first symptoms, one should get tested for Lyme. Better to rule it out than risk the consequences. Treatment for Lyme in early stages is more likely to be successful. Conventional medicine offers antibiotics as treatment with some success, especially in early stages. There are many alternative treatments that have had success. Some of them are described below. As for anyone, eating whole, unprocessed organic foods will be of benefit. Also, eliminating sugar, saturated meal fats, alcohol, and common food allergens (such as wheat, dairy, and corn) from the diet can lessen the body's burden so it has energy to fight the Lyme spirochetes. Exercise is very important for Lyme sufferers because it supports the lymph and cardiovascular systems which are pushing out wastes from the immune system and pulling in fresh nutrients to the body to improve its healing ability.

    Spirochete/Borrelia (Lyme) culture using PCR is a new test that's very accurate. See: LymeDisease.org for more info.

    Lyme Disease Treatments

    Chinese herbs are used to treat patients with Lyme, the diagnosis is usually "damp heat". See Treating Lyme with Chinese Herbs

    TOA free Cat's Claw or Samento is a botanical medicine from the rainforest. In general, it has been shown to profoundly affect the immune system. It increases white blood cell counts and their ability to destroy and digest foreign substances in the body. It is also well know for its ability to decrease inflammation in arthritis. Recently, it has been shown promise in Lyme patients. William Lee Cowden, M.D., Hamid Moayad, D.O., Joan Vandergriff, N.D., Luis Romero, M.D., Ph.D., and Svetlana Ivanova, M.D., Ph.D. were the investigators in a 6 month pilot study with 28 advanced chronic Lyme patients. The patients all tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi using the Western Blot. The control group of 14 patients received antibiotic treatment. At the end of the 6 months, 3 slightly improved, 3 worsened, 8 had no change in symptoms. The group receiving Cats Claw free of TOA (tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids) had dramatic results. After the 6 months, 85% tested negative for Borrelia and all patients reported improvement in symptom picture.

    According to Austrian research, 1% TOA's can cause a 30% reduction in immune system benefits. This is why they must be removed from the plant before being used for Lyme. The benefits are primarily from the component in Cats Claw called POA's or pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids.

    Allicin is the active ingredient made from crushing garlic. This molecule is very small and has the ability to penetrate and kill viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites and perhaps the Lyme spirochete. The problem with garlic in high quantities is the gastrointestinal problems not to mention the strong odor. A new patented process developed has given us Allicin without the garlic issues. The product is called Allimed. It contains the killing power of 150 cloves of garlic in 6 drops.   Allicin not only kills bacteria, but also Candida (cause of yeast infections) and Clostridium difficile (cause of serious diarrhea).  Candidia and C. Diff are two common problems that can occur while on a course of antibiotics. Allicin is safe for long term use and beneficial for those on antibiotics as well.

    Rife therapy is a method of healing using resonance frequencies applied to the body. It was developed by Royal Rife and John Crane in the 1950's. The Rife "machine" produces this resonance frequency that has the ability to kill the Lyme spirochete in the body. Bryan Rosner, author of a well-known book on Lyme, found Rife therapy to be very beneficial to Lyme sufferers. He himself has had the disease and using Rife therapy, has undergone a slow steady reversal of his symptoms.  

    Bee venom has proteolytic enzymes which digest the coating on the spirochete cysts. It also has the ability to inhibit spirochete growth and replication through the action of bee venom polypeptides.

    Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber treatments, 85% showed statistically significant improvement. This treatment, though possibly effective, can cost a patient thousands of dollars.

    Colloidal Silver is a well-known and well researched anti-biotic. The spirochete is unique in its cell wall which has three layers, this helps in its spiral shape. This cell wall is similar to Gram negative bacteria, however, does not stain the same in the laboratory. Lyme spirochetes need to use silver stains, with silver nitrate. This is the proposed mechanism of using colloidal silver in Lyme disease.

    Another tool that which shows promise is the Quantum Biofeedback System using the EPFX. This device picks up stressors that may signify Lyme and by delivering energetic frequencies those stressors may be cleared allowing the immune system to deal with the disease more effectively.

    Oral Salt Therapy is the process of taking high quantities of salt internally. High amounts of sodium stimulate the white blood cells to release elastase, an enzyme that begins a cascade of events that leads to boring a hole in the spirochete or other infectious organism, and hence killing it.

    Antibiotics Commonly Used in Lyme Treatment

    Tetracycline
    Amoxicillin
    Cefuroxime
    Doxycycline
    Clarithromycin
    Flagyl / Metronidazole
    Tinidazole
    Cefotaxime
    Azithromycin
    Penicillin
    Imipenem
    Benzathine Penicillin
    Cefdinir
    Rocephin / Ceftriaxone
    Trimethoprim
    Cipro(floxacin) Source: 2004 BRI

    According to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), there are three categories of Lyme presentations. Symptoms may continue despite 30 days of treatment (persistent Lyme disease). The patient may relapse in the absence of another tick bite or erythema migrans rash (recurrent Lyme disease), or be poorly responsive to antibiotic treatment (refractory Lyme disease).

    Summation of ILADS guidelines in regards to antibiotics

    A recently completed NIH study of 107 chronic Lyme patients (sick for an average of 4.7 years) found that they had a quality of life worse than diabetics and recent heart attack patients. The average delays for treatment of Lyme disease were 6 months due to delays by the patients and 2.2 years due to delays caused by physicians, who often misdiagnosed Lyme as spider bites, torn cartilage, cellulitis, water on the knee, sinusitis, fibromyalgia, migraines, and Epstein Barr. Given that patients with delayed treatment have a much higher rate of treatment failures (52% vs. 15%); he suggested that the medical community emphasize the importance of following the ILADS treatment guidelines in order to prevent regular Lyme from becoming Chronic Lyme.

    Risks of Antibiotics

    According to the Merck Manual, people who receive antibiotics through an IV catheter are at increased risk of developing serious infection at the site where the catheter is inserted and in the bloodstream. Pain, redness, and pus at the catheter insertion site, or chills and fever (even in the absence of problems at the insertion site) are signs that a catheter-related infection may have developed.

    Common side effects of antibiotics include upset stomach, diarrhea, and, in women, vaginal yeast infections. Some side effects are more severe and, depending on the antibiotic, may disrupt the function of the kidneys, liver, bone marrow, or other organs. Blood tests are needed to monitor such adverse reactions.

    Antibiotics can also cause allergic reactions. Mild allergic reactions consist of an itchy rash or slight wheezing. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can be life threatening and usually include swelling of the throat, inability to breathe, and low blood pressure.

    Some people who receive antibiotics develop colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine. The colitis results from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which grows unchecked when other bacteria are killed by the antibiotics.

    Dog Ticks and Lyme Disease

    In 2003, an animal medical center in Wentzville, Missouri confirmed 100 active cases of tick-borne diseases among client dogs. Of those, 80 dogs tested positive for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, 19 were positive for ehrlichiosis, and one dog had Lyme disease. Two of the dogs with ehrlichiosis died.

    Rural clients usually know about ticks and the diseases they carry. However, pet owners moving from urban areas to the country may not be as aware as they should be. Dog owners should have their pets tested using what's called a titer test, and take action to protect their pets from ticks.




    Wendy Wells

    Author Wendy Wells is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of Arizona.
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