Could Your Symptoms be Caused by Chronic Lyme Disease?
Aching joints, headaches and fatigue could be related to a multitude of illnesses, but when the symptoms persist for months or even years, chronic Lyme disease could be to blame. The disease is often misdiagnosed and mistreated, resulting in years of suffering for the afflicted. Canadian fly-fishing show host of What A Catch TV" Kathryn Maroun was recently quoted about her struggles with chronic Lyme disease in Realtree's Self Defense in the Woods photo essay.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which can be trasmitted through a tick bite. Between 20,000 and 30,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. are reported each year, but because of the difficulty of diagnosis, many cases go unreported. Those who spend much time outdoors have a higher risk for contracting the illness and should take special care in preventing tick bites.
A friend of mine suffered from joint pain, limb weakness, impaired muscle movement and severe fatigue for years before he was diagnosed with the disease. Because he was never aware he was bitten by a tick, and he never developed the telltale bull's-eye pattern, Lyme disease never crossed his mind. Only after years of misdiagnosis and unsuccessful treatments did he finally get diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease and receive the treatment he needed.
I have another friend who suspects Lyme disease for her many ailments, although she's tested negative for the disease. But, false negative test results are extremely common, especially when proper diagnostic steps are not followed.
The New York Times posted a health blog today titled, When Lyme Disease Lasts and Lasts. It profiles a 51-year-old woman who suffered with the disease for 10 years. Her symptoms started out as aching joints, headaches and fatigue and then progressed to neuropathy in her limbs and face and vision problems. A test for Lyme disease came back negative and she was told she most likely had multiple sclerosis. But, after consulting a Lyme disease specialist, she began a regimen of long-term antibiotics. After several moths on atibiotics, the woman said she felt completely healthy for the first time in years. But, not everyone with chronic Lyme disease seem to benefit from intensive antibiotic therapy.
When caught early, Lyme disease is usually cured with a simple round of antibiotics. But, even if the initial infection was promptly diagnosed and treated, some people who get Lyme disease go on to develop a chronic illness. The New York Times blog states approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of people who are treated for medically documented Lyme disease develop persistent or recurrent symptoms of fatigue, musculoskeletal pain and cognitive complaints as a result of the condition known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome or PTLDS.
Because treatment for chronic Lyme disease is so uncertain, prevention is extremely important. In an effort to prevent tick bites, avoid walking through brush and high grass when possible. Wear long-sleeve shirts and tuck your pants into your socks. Spray your skin with 20% DEET insecticide and your clothing with permethrin. Remove your clothing before you go indoors and wash and dry them separately. Shower as soon as possible, and of course, check your body for ticks. If you find one, carefully remove it with tweezers by pulling gently and steadily near the mouth, and then apply antiseptic to the site.
Do you have any tips for preventing tick bites?