For many years, Lyme disease was largely misunderstood and difficult to diagnose, as its symptoms are vague and similar to general feelings of malaise. However, the bacterial disease was conclusively identified in 1975 in Connecticut, United States, and was named after the town it was first diagnosed in. Recently, medical professionals have been able to better identify the disease using a variety of tests, and can diagnose patients more accurately.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a parasitic infection caused from ticks carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This bacteria is a type of spirochete, or corkscrew-shaped bacteria, and there are four closely related types in the Borrelia family – Borrelia burgdorferi is the most common throughout the United States; Borrelia mayonii is found in the upper Midwestern United States; and Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are both found in Europe and Asia. In the United States, the ticks that tend to carry the bacteria the most are the deer ticks, whereas in Europe, the primary carriers are sheep or castor bean ticks. The good news is that not all ticks carry this bacteria; however, with tick populations on the rise and the increase in global travel and exploration, humans are becoming more and more exposed to ticks.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in acute form?
The difficult part about diagnosing this condition is that its symptoms of Lyme disease are very similar to flu symptoms and can be difficult to pinpoint. Symptoms of Lyme disease also do not present themselves until 7–10 days after a tick bite, making the connection tricky to identify. Acute symptoms of Lyme disease can include a circular ‘bull’s eye’ rash that may appear anywhere from a few days or up to a month following a tick bite. Other symptoms of Lyme disease in this acute stage include headache, fatigue, chills, loss of appetite, fever, and achiness of joints and muscles. When identified at this stage, Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics; most people only experience these symptoms and never become seriously ill.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in chronic form?
It is estimated that 30–50% of people will progress through to the next stage of the illness that can begin two weeks to three months after the infection starts, and they are then subjected to the chronic symptoms of Lyme disease. These can include arthritic pain, memory loss, trouble with vision, and other neurological symptoms that closely parallel multiple sclerosis.
Only a very small percentage of people will progress to the third and final stage of Lyme disease, which can present itself two years after the initial tick bite. This chronic form of Lyme disease causes crippling arthritis and several neurological symptoms similar to those in patients with multiple sclerosis. It can also include facial paralysis, difficulty walking, meningitis, increased memory loss and difficulty concentrating. (Source)
Can Lyme disease cause a loss of appetite?
In a word, yes. One of the symptoms of Lyme disease in its acute form is a loss of appetite, similar to what patients would experience if they had the flu. So exactly how does Lyme disease affect appetite?
Lyme disease can affect the sense of taste, making previously enjoyed foods taste odd. It causes patients to have to limit what they are eating, as only certain tastes and textures are tolerated. At first glance, this aversion to food can come across as an eating disorder, if Lyme disease hasn’t already been diagnosed. In children, it can seem as though they are simply being ‘picky eaters’ or going through a phase of not enjoying certain foods, when in fact it is a sign of Lyme disease.
How to test for Lyme disease
To determine whether or not flu-like symptoms are a result of Lyme disease, especially if the patient notices the bull’s eye rash or has been recently bitten by a tick, doctors will perform a variety of tests using blood samples. It can be challenging to get confirmation of the presence of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria; however, this is not always easy or possible. The part of our immune system that creates the antibodies required to fight an infection is called the humoral immune system. Doctors can check this part of the immune system to determine whether or not the bacteria is present, based on whether the body is creating antibodies to fight it. They can also test at the cellular level to analyse the activity of the antibodies. Humoral immune system tests include the ELISA, CLIA, and immunoblots, while the cellular immune system tests are done through the ELISpot test. (Source)
How to treat loss of appetite due to Lyme disease
The best way to treat any of the acute symptoms of Lyme disease is to get on a regime of antibiotics as soon as possible. If you suspect that you have been bitten by a tick, or you notice the bull’s eye rash, seek medical help immediately to begin testing for the disease. By treating the disease at its root, many people find relief of the acute symptoms, including the loss of appetite. While you are experiencing the loss of appetite due to Lyme disease, try experimenting with various foods to try to find options that are nutritious and appealing to your altered palate. Continue consuming fluids as much as you can, and include fluids such as smoothies that can add nutritional value while not requiring you to eat a lot.