In the wide spectrum of diseases that human beings can catch, Lyme disease is one of the lesser-known. However, it can potentially be one of the most debilitating. The fact that this disease is still not fully legitimised in the eyes of many mainstream medical organisations is certainly demoralising, especially when it is estimated to affect 300,000 new patients a year. The impacts of Lyme disease are numerous, but also generalised and specific to each patient. This doesn’t help diagnosis, and it’s probable that there are thousands of Lyme cases that go misdiagnosed every year. Compounding the problem is the existence of co-infections, which can get transferred to the patient at the same time as the Lyme-causative Borrelia bacteria. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis and Lyme disease go hand-in-hand, prolonging the suffering of many patients.
Lyme disease is the product of the Borrelia strain of bacteria, which is transferred during a tick bite. Not every tick carries Lyme, and not every bite from an infected tick will inevitably result in Lyme; however, the exact data for these statistics is hard to ascertain. What is for certain is that the risk is not as minimal as you might think, and there have been cases where Lyme disease has been transferred from tick to host in very short order, even if the bite was noticed in time. Time is a crucial component when it comes to Lyme disease. The condition manifests in two very distinct and separate forms: acute and chronic. The acute form occurs shortly after the transmission bite. The symptoms are generalised and mimic the flu; headache, fever, chills, muscle aches and fatigue are all common. Despite Lyme disease being an undeniably severe disease, symptoms at this stage can actually be quite light in some cases.
Unfortunately, this makes them all the easier to ignore. This is one of the typical insidious aspects of Lyme, which is an incredibly insidious disease as a whole. The acute stage of the disease is easily treatable, but it is also easily missed. The most distinctive symptom is a bullseye rash, which forms around the site of the bite, presenting as a red dot surrounded by a red ring. If the bite or the subsequent rash isn’t noticed by the patient, then it becomes all too easy to write the acute symptoms off as a bout of flu. Another dangerous aspect of this acute stage is that the symptoms will disappear on their own after a couple of weeks, making it more likely the patient will simply forget about them. Unfortunately, as the acute stage dissipates, the disease might go dormant for some time – but if it’s not treated, it will eventually re-emerge as the chronic form.
Acute Lyme can be successfully treated with rounds of antibiotics, but chronic Lyme is a different prospect altogether. At this stage, the infection has taken a backseat somewhat, and the immune system is responsible for the onset of most symptoms. These can vary from patient to patient, but usually include muscle and joint pain, constant fatigue, facial paralysis and potential neurological and cardiac complications. This is another insidious element of Lyme; it essentially makes the body attack itself. The immune response kicks off a chain of inflammation in its desperation to rid the body of the long-term infection. This results in numerous complications that aren’t directly linked to the Borrelia bacteria, but instead are a result of its presence in the body. This can make Lyme extremely hard to treat, as many doctors don’t recognise this delicate interplay between infection and inflammation symptoms. Unfortunately, this makes misdiagnosis and Lyme disease go hand-in-hand, with rates estimated to be very high.
Lyme disease is very close to being classified as a pandemic. But how exactly can we categorise this disease when it isn’t even fully legitimised yet? Is Lyme disease a pandemic? Or is Lyme disease an epidemic? Well, previously it would have been thought of as an epidemic because it was geographically confined to one region (in this case, Northeast America). However, while some people are still of the impression that Lyme can only be caught in certain states in America, the unfortunate truth is that Lyme disease can be caught on every continent bar Antarctica, including every state in the U.S. Because of this, it’s true to say that Lyme is a pandemic, which describes the worldwide spread of a disease.
The key to fighting Lyme is education. It’s not a disease like cancer or ALS, where the causes and triggers have yet to be concretely ascertained. Lyme is definitively transmitted through tick bites and comes with its own unique symptom in many cases, in the form of the bullseye rash. Moreover, Lyme disease can be easily treated with antibiotics if it is caught in time. Once it progresses to the chronic stage, it is much, much more complicated to both diagnose and treat. As it stands, only specialist labs like BCA-clinic in Germany are fully versed in chronic Lyme, while many other doctors remain as uneducated as the patients. The dangers of minimising the effects of Lyme disease can be catastrophic for patients. It’s time we took this disease seriously, and committed ourselves to eradicating it while we still have the opportunity.