What is Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease in BC is the most common tick borne infection in the world and the most common disease transmitted by insects in Canada. Recent estimates by the CDC show that current statistics on Lyme Disease do not include the unknown number of people who are infected but who are not adequately diagnosed and treated.
Even when Lyme is treated early and appropriately with standard doses of antibiotics, these infections often produce chronic symptoms and disease that can affect almost any organ of the body, from the brain to the skin.
In a prospective study by Johns Hopkins, 35% of patients who were treated with standard antibiotics in early Lyme Disease had new or persistent symptoms 6 months after completing treatment. Those with symptoms had developed significant impairment in life function, making it clear that Lyme Disease is an important cause of chronic illness.
Lyme Disease in BC is transmitted by ticks that live on deer, yet these ticks are also carried on a wide variety of other small animals. The tick is so small, sometimes as small as a poppy seed, and many are not even aware that they were bit by a tick and may never develop a rash at the site of the tick bite.
When To Suspect Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease in BC should be considered in any person with unexplained:
- Fever or muscle pain
- Acute unexplained changes in emotional or cognitive function
- Anyone given a diagnosis of autoimmune or degenerative neurological disease
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Common Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease in BC :
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Skin rashes
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Muscle weakness or paralysis
- Numbness or tingling
- Mood disorders
- Impaired memory or concentration
- GI complaints
Misdiagnosis of Lyme Disease in BC
Lyme Disease is a great imitator and is often misdiagnosed or can be associated with:
- Fibromyalgia/chronic Fatigue Syndrome (over 50% of patients diagnosed with one of these conditions actually has Lyme Disease)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (can be triggered by Lyme Disease, but once properly treated, symptoms can be drastically reduced)
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Positional Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or neurally mediated hypotension
Borrelia Has Many Different Species
Most cases of Lyme Disease are triggered by Borrelia burgdorferi, however, many ticks carry numerous microbes in addition to Borrelia. This makes Lyme Disease one of the most complex multi-layered infectious diseases. Borrelia can exist as a variety of species in addition to Borrelia burgdoferi including:
- Borrelia garini
- Borrelia afzelii
- Borellia hermseii
- Borrelia miyamotoi
Standard blood tests only look for the Borrelia burgdorferi strain, which is why many tests fail to identify Lyme Disease in patients with antibodies to the other Borrelia species.
Lyme Disease and Co-infections
Co-infections are common as deer ticks often carry other bacteria and parasites that cause very distinct patterns of illness and suppress immunity including:
- Anaplasma or Erlichiosis (will often see elevated liver enzymes and sedimentation rates, low WBC and platelets; treated with doxycycline)
- Bartonella (also known to cause Cat Scratch Fever, it invades blood vessels and can raise inflammatory blood vessel markers; enlarged lymph nodes, pain, and fever are also common)
- Babesia (an intra-cellular parasite that will not respond to antibiotics; chills, sweats, fever, anemia, memory lapses, disorientation)
People with Lyme Disease plus a co-infections are often sicker and less responsive to treatments than those infected with Borrelia only. Often, blood tests for Lyme Disease will fail to detect the presence of co-infections and Lyme Disease treatments will often fail to treat these co-infections.
Testing For Lyme Disease
A negative blood test does not rule out Lyme Disease or a co-infection. Most lab tests depend on measuring antibody levels in the blood. People who receive antibiotics very early after becoming infected or who are exposed to steroid medications or severe stress may fail to develop antibodies. Some are genetically unable to develop a normal antibody response to Borellia. There is also great variability in test results among the different laboratories.
Lyme Disease in BC Diagnosis
The CDC and IDSA agree that the diagnosis of Lyme Disease is a clinical diagonosis based on:
- Signs or symptoms compatible with Lyme Disease
- The likelihood of exposure to deer ticks
It is important to note that deer ticks are NOT carried by deer alone. White footed mice may also be responsible for most transmission to humans, and this makes it a possibility for Lyme to be acquired in an urban environment, not just in wooded or grassy areas. Further,
Lyme Disease can also be transmitted at any time of the year, not just in the summer as previously thought.