Great Imitator at the Heart of a Controversy
Lyme disease is a multi-system inflammatory disease that affects the
nervous system and all the systems of the body, including the brain.
Once assumed to be spread by bacteria carried only by deer ticks,
Lyme-literate experts now maintain that it can be spread through other
means, including mosquitoes and body fluids. Symptoms mimic hundreds of
other disorders, thus the medical profession’s nickname for
Lyme, the Great Imitator.
Lyme can be very difficult to diagnose, in part because some people do
not develop symptoms immediately after being infected. It is not yet
known how long the Lyme bacteria may lie dormant; some people who have
been exposed may never develop symptoms. Another factor making the
disease hard to diagnose is that negative clinical test results do not
necessarily mean that the patient is free of Lyme or its co-infections.
The bacteria is capable of morphing into two, three or more shapes
which it appears to do sometimes in order to evade the body’s
The disease is frequently misdiagnosed as many other illnesses, such as
Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Epstein-Barr virus
and rheumatoid arthritis. Some Lyme experts estimate that up to 50% of
patients diagnosed with autoimmune diseases have Lyme’s
either as the cause of or as a contributor to their suffering.
Like CFS it can cause achiness and extreme fatigue that is unrelieved
with bed rest. However, it doesn’t simply cause flu-like
symptoms and severe joint pain, and not everyone who has the disease
develops the characteristic bullseye rash associated with Lyme. The
list of symptoms is long and varied because the bacteria which causes
the disease affects every bodily system. Typically, the elimination
organs are invaded: The kidneys, bladder, liver, skin and lymph glands.
Lyme also affects the cardiac system and the brain, causing arrhythmia
and poor concentration, mood swings and depression. Patients commonly
report some psychotic episodes, including hallucinations involving
their sense of sight, smell and hearing. Although every case is
different, left untreated, Lyme disease can be devastating.
Unfortunately, the effect of a professional misdiagnoses results in
many patients going untested for Lyme. Therefore, they remain
untreated, and their symptoms worsen.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called spirochetes, which are
pleomorphic. They are spiral-shaped, but can change into a round ball
and then back into a spiral. Lyme experts believe this is the way they
move through the tissues and bloodstreams of the body. The
spirochetes’ pleomorphic nature tends to complicate testing
and thus, treatment.
Risks attend any outdoors experience where ticks may be prevalent.
Currently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not acknowledge
Lyme as a sexually transmitted disease, but many Lyme-literate doctors
suggest that it is. The disease is not restricted by geographical
borders and has been found in every state in the U.S. and in other
Symptoms vary from patient to patient and depending on the
stage of the disease. Symptoms include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Skin rash
- Light sensitivity
- Nervous system disorders
- Mood swings
- Cognitive disorganization
- Hearing loss
- Facial paralysis
Currently, the recommended diagnostic tests for detecting Lyme disease
are the Western Blot analysis, used to identify particular antibodies,
and the ELISA, which is a more general antibody test. New, more
reliable tests for Lyme are now on the medical horizon.
The Western Blot and the ELISA test for antibodies, which complicates
the detection of Lyme bacteria due to the fact that during certain
stages of the disease, no antibodies can be detected in an infected
patient. Recently, a new test has been devised and patented by the
Bowen Research Laboratory in Florida, U.S. The test, called Q-RiBb, is
highly specific for the bacteria that causes Lyme, the Borrelia
burgdorferi. Q-RiBb has been developed to detect antigens, not
antibodies, and therefore is said to be much more reliable and quicker
in diagnosing Lyme.
Doctors who are educated about the tricky nature of testing for Lyme
disease currently agree that when a person presents with symptoms
characteristic of Lyme, it is prudent to begin treatment for the
bacteria even as test results are pending.
Test results for Lyme antibodies are notoriously unreliable, and as a
result Lyme patients can test positive one week and negative two weeks
later. This is due to the pleomorphic nature of the spirochetes, which
can change shapes and hide from the body’s immune system.
Current medical protocol advises that if Lyme is suspected and the
patient is presenting with symptoms typical of Lyme, to treat as if the
disease is present even with a negative test.
Unreliable tests result in the prolonged agony of Lyme patients who are
often caught in the controversy over treatment protocol. Many patients
find themselves needing to choose and begin a therapy during one of the
most stressful times in their lives. The decision-making process is
further hindered by the brain fog that usually accompanies Lyme.
Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics, though controversy exists
over the strength and length of time these antibiotics should be
prescribed. Lyme-literate doctors suggest that antibiotics administered
in the first few weeks after infection seem to be effective for most
patients. However, patients given antibiotics during later stages of
the disease often must stay on antibiotics for extended courses.
Extended courses of antibiotics leads to fungal overgrowth in the gut,
often as much a problem as the Lyme bacteria itself.
Many Lyme-literate MDs are treating patients successfully with herbal
antimicrobials, which do not create the problems associated with
antibiotics. Patients report that after herbal antimicrobial treatment
is complete, they do not experience a relapse of Lyme symptoms although
the protocol is discontinued at some point.
Lyme patients are encouraged to exercise
moderately, though not to overexert. Exercise is important not only to
stimulate muscles and nerves, but also to help move the bacteria out of
its hiding places in the heart and brain, and into the bloodstream
where it may be detected and destroyed by the body's natural immune
Chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy and
acupuncture or acupressure are recommended for pain relief. Stretching
and strengthening exercises such as Yoga or Tai Chi can soothe achey
muscles and relax Lyme sufferers who feel well enough for these
pursuits. Gentle exercise during the day can help people who may have
trouble sleeping through the night.
The necessity for cautious, yet thorough detoxification is gaining
increasing attention from Lyme experts. Lyme studies have shown that
the presence of heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum in the body
create conditions for the growth and regrowth of microbes such as Lyme
bacteria. As long as the metals and other toxins remain in the body,
Lyme-literate doctors say it is difficult to totally destroy the
microbes because they are in a system that is predisposed to
Homeopathic and or herbal remedies are often
used to help reduce inflammation and pain. Steroidal drugs, which
replicate the spirochetes, are contra-indicated where Lyme bacteria is
The medical community is fiercely divided on how to treat Lyme
sufferers. Generally speaking, people afflicted with the disease have
three choices. The American Medical Association (AMA) and the CDC
recommend a standard protocol of thirty days of antibiotic treatment.
Some Lyme expert physicians, referred to as Lyme literate doctors
(LLMDs), follow a protocol of antibiotics geared toward each individual
patient. Long-term use of antibiotics is necessary, in their view.
Health insurance companies tend to align with the short-term AMA
protocol, frequently denying continued coverage for Lyme patients even
when the primary physician recommends a longer course of antibiotics.
Some patients opt for no antibiotics, seeking alternative treatments
instead, with an emphasis on homeopathics, dietary and vitamin
supplements and/or herbal antimicrobials. Others may decide to use a
hybrid protocol of alternative therapies and pharmaceutical drugs.
Prevention of Lyme disease was once believed to
be fairly simple: Stay away from deer ticks. If a deer tick bite was
suspected, the person was sometimes prescribed a round of antibiotics
as a preventative measure. Now, however, LLMDs suspect that the
bacteria responsible for Lyme may be spread through sexual contact,
body fluids and other insect carriers such as mosquitoes.
American Academy of Physicians
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Beating Lyme Disease by Dr. David Jernigan, B.S., D.C., and Dr. Sara
Koch Jernigan, B.S. D.C.
Bowen Research Laboratory: https://www.lymeresearch.com
Academy for Bio-Energetic and Integrative Medicine:
Suzanne Arthur ©2005 Lyme Disease Research Database
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