Lyme Disease Symptoms:

The 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 immune system.

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 countries.

Lyme Symptoms

Symptoms vary from patient to patient and depending on the stage of the disease. Symptoms include:
  •  Extreme fatigue
  •  Skin rash
  •  Palsy
  •  Arthritis
  •  Neuralgia
  •  Vertigo
  •  Light sensitivity
  •  Nausea
  •  Arrhythmia
  •  Nervous system disorders
  •  Headaches
  •  TMJ
  •  Mood swings
  •  Cognitive disorganization
  •  Hallucinations
  •  Hearing loss
  •  Facial paralysis

Lyme Diagnosis

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.

 Lyme Treatment
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.

Physical Activity

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 system.

Physical Therapies

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 replicating them.


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 underlying.     

 Lyme Treatment Controversy
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:
Academy for Bio-Energetic and Integrative Medicine:

Suzanne Arthur ©2005 Lyme Disease Research Database

By accessing and/or reading this document you agree to the terms of use and privacy policy.

Disclaimer: The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only.  This material is not nor should it be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment; nor does it necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of or any of its contributors.  Advice on the testing, treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history. Use the Lyme Disease Research Database at your own risk. The Lyme Disease Research Database will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising therefrom.

Powered by