We’re used to trusting our doctors and generally accept whatever diagnosis they give us without question. However, when it comes to Lyme disease, especially the chronic development of the disorder, it can really pay to demand a specific Lyme test from your medical professional. Lyme is often nicknamed ‘The Great Imitator’, as it’s adept at mimicking the symptoms of several other well-known degenerative physical and mental disorders, and presenting as them. Adding to the confusion is the unfortunate fact that many medical professionals across the world are woefully uneducated when it comes to Lyme and its treatment; chronic Lyme is still regarded as a fabricated disease in some circles, despite continued and clear evidence to the contrary.
One organisation that is certainly not uneducated in the field of Lyme is the BCA Clinic, who utilise a holistic approach to the treatment of patients suffering from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme. But if you’re worried about your local doctor not knowing enough about Lyme for your liking, you can start by educating yourself about the disease, so you’ll know to demand a test if and when the time comes. To get you started in that area, here are five very common misdiagnoses of Lyme that you need to watch out for. Receiving a diagnosis of any one of these five disorders when the root cause of your symptoms is actually Lyme is an extremely destructive misstep that can ruin lives. It’s prudent to prepare yourself and demand a Lyme test if you think it’s necessary.
1 – Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) presents many of the same symptoms of Lyme, which is why it’s often mistaken for it. Dizziness, numbness, fatigue and tingling in the extremities are all crossover symptoms of both disorders, and it can be quite hard for doctors to differentiate between the two. If your doctor isn’t well-versed in Lyme, then they will often default to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, without even testing for the former. This can be extremely dangerous for a patient, as MS is a lifelong diagnosis, which requires many varied treatment approaches. Embarking on this path and ignoring the actual underlying problem of chronic Lyme can have critical, sometimes fatal consequences for patients, as the infection will continue to spread and worsen, with the subsequent symptoms being written off as standard MS deterioration.
2 – Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a less sinister disease than multiple sclerosis, but it is still a common misdiagnosis of Lyme that can cause real problems for patients if they’re attended to by a negligent doctor. Fibromyalgia symptoms include pain across the body, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, headache and depression. These are all traditional symptoms of chronic Lyme, but fibromyalgia is far more widespread (or at least it’s thought to be), so the diagnosis will usually swing that way. Adding to the confusion is the fact that fibromyalgia is not a very well-understood disorder; the cause is theorised but definitively unknown.
3 – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Many diseases cause chronic fatigue, but the symptom can be a syndrome in and of itself. Because one of the prominent symptoms of Lyme is a constant sense of tiredness, it is often misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. The fatigue usually overrides all other symptoms when it comes to Lyme, making it difficult for patients to even get themselves out of bed in the mornings; so when they go to see their doctor it’s often the first thing they mention. Doctors will then jump to CFS, and start working back from that diagnosis; in fact, when it comes to Lyme, the fatigue is the result of the infection, not the cause of the symptoms in and of itself.
4 – Autoimmune Disease
Any kind of infection weakens and strains the immune system, because it’s constantly fighting against the invasion. Lyme is no different, and in fact this is a large part of why patients feel so consistently debilitated from it. The immune system attacks the alien bacteria and causes flare-ups, especially in joints where the bacteria like to settle. This joint pain is perpetual for many patients, leading doctors to assume the immune system has gone haywire, and subsequently diagnose an autoimmune deficiency like lupus or arthritis.
5 – Depression
Lyme doesn’t just take a physical toll; many patients suffer from depression and anxiety over their symptoms, because the suffering is so constant and seemingly endless. Sometimes, it can get so bad that people just don’t want to get up in the morning, and have very little energy to do things throughout the day. This is a classic symptom of depression; it’s also been proven that anxiety and depression can have a negative physical impact on the body, and manifest themselves via headaches, aches, stomach problems and joint stiffness. Doctors will often assume these physical symptoms are byproducts of a lingering mental disorder, and look to cure the patient’s supposed depression first. In truth, when it comes to Lyme, a physical approach should always be paramount; the mental symptoms will eventually lift with continued successful treatment.