As Lyme disease nears pandemic levels across the globe, one of the biggest challenges for both patients and doctors is the problem of diagnosis. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in America) estimates that there are over 300,000 new cases of the disease a year, the vast majority of which are initially misdiagnosed. This figure does not include undiagnosed cases, of which there are suspected to be many hundreds of thousands more.
For a disease that is as prominent as Lyme, these are highly concerning statistics, and seem to promote the unchecked spread of the disorder into the future. So what can be done to stem the tide of Lyme in the here and now? A complete and readily available cure is still some way down the line, but what measures can be taken as we end 2019 and move into 2020?
The Problem of Lyme Disease
Lyme was first discovered in Connecticut in 1975, but has undoubtedly been plaguing humans for far longer. Despite it being present in every state in America and nearly all European countries, the myth that it is solely a North Eastern American disorder is pervasive. The disease is spread through the bite of ticks, which transfer the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria to their human hosts. The initial stage of the disease is known as acute, where symptoms resemble typical flu-like manifestations. The presence of a bullseye rash is also a certain indicator of Lyme.
If the acute stage is allowed to pass without intervention, chronic Lyme will develop. The chronic form of the disease is a delicate and patient-specific interplay of infection and inflammation symptoms, the former being caused by the remnant Borrelia bacteria, and the latter being caused by the body’s own inflamed response to the invasion. Currently, chronic Lyme is not legitimately medically recognised, and is much more complicated to both diagnose and treat.
The Problem of Lyme Literacy
Many of the current problems surrounding Lyme disease stem from a lack of understanding on the part of both doctors and the wider general public. This is, of course, compounded by chronic Lyme existing in a grey area of legitimacy, with many medical professionals at loggerheads over how real the disorder is. Acute Lyme is well accepted and understood by most doctors; it is also easily treatable with antibiotics if caught in time. The literacy of chronic Lyme is where the problems start.
These issues originate with medical professionals, and then extend out into the wider public. The foundational knowledge of diseases and how to combat them must always come from professionals first, before it is understood by potential patients. Therefore, the fact that many doctors have no clue about the true effects of chronic Lyme and continually misdiagnose the disorder should be extremely concerning for everyone involved.
Spreading Lyme Awareness
The irony is that Lyme is actually a relatively simple disease to both recognise and treat. It just hasn’t yet got the visibility it requires. As with many disorders, prevention is the best form of offence we have. Lyme is spread by ticks, so if people are hyper-aware of tick bites, this will serve as an effective frontline of defence. In addition, acute Lyme can be addressed with antibiotics, so even if a tick bite gets through, the odds of successful treatment are high if it is noticed in time.
This last caveat is extremely important, as combating Lyme disease is always a battle against time. Prevention is the main form of necessary awareness, but there are also secondary concerns that doctors especially need to know. The existence of co-infections are one example; these are additional infections transmitted simultaneously with Lyme, and can often compound its effects. They need to be treated at the same time as the overriding Lyme infection. Common Lyme misdiagnoses are also critical to be aware of, as is a general understanding of how the disease operates and progresses over time.
Lyme Disease Research
Sadly, most of this Lyme-specific knowledge is absent in the majority of the global medical community. Part of this deficiency is due to the lack of substantiated research on the topic of Lyme. Even those doctors who are in the know about Lyme are crying out for more research to be conducted on the disease.
An understanding of areas like potential human-to-human transmission, the habits of the Borrelia bacteria in the long-term, neuroborreliosis, Lyme carditis, and robust, accurate testing for the disease and its co-infections is critical to our collective knowledge around Lyme. The ongoing studies in these areas is scant at best. Anyone with any real experience of Lyme disease is strongly advocating for more research into this mysterious disorder.
Specialist Lyme Disease Clinics
While the public and wider medical community are still busy catching up with Lyme disease, it’s slowly but surely becoming a pandemic. As a consistent Lyme-literate medical community is still many years off, an important stepping-stone in the fight against Lyme is the existence of specialist Lyme disease doctors and clinics. Through these, patients can get quick and easy access to diagnostic and treatment facilities, without experiencing the frustration of suffering while being brushed off, or not being taken seriously by their own regular doctors.
Lyme disease treatment is very complex, especially if it reaches the chronic stage. This is why specialist clinics are necessary. BCA-clinic in Germany is one such place; they have an in-house lab that helps them facilitate patient’s diagnosis, as well as their own unique blood test, which is far more accurate than traditional methods. Similarly, the Charles E. Holman Foundation is a grassroots initiative which provides important support to Morgellons disease sufferers. Recent research has suggested that the bizarre skin condition known as Morgellons may be an offshoot of an overriding Borrelia infection. Again, much more research is needed in this area.
If you suspect you have Lyme disease, the most important thing you can do is to contact a specialist who knows what they’re talking about. A speedy diagnosis is an important weapon against Lyme and should be the first one you reach for. BCA-clinic has affiliate doctors all over the globe, in major cities such as Singapore, London and Sydney. If you’re concerned about a potential Lyme infection in your family, get in touch with BCA-clinic – they’ll point you in the right direction, wherever you are in the world.