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Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by Ixodes ticks, also known as deer ticks. These tiny arachnids are typically found in wooded and grassy areas. Although people may think of Lyme as an East Coast disease, it is found throughout the United States, as well as in more than sixty other countries.

Lyme Disease manifests itself as a multisystem inflammatory disease that affects the skin in its early, localized stage, and spreads to the joints, nervous system and, to a lesser extent, other organ systems in its later, disseminated stages. If diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics, Lyme Disease is almost always readily cured. Generally, Lyme Disease in its later stages can also be treated effectively, but because the rate of disease progression and individual response to treatment varies from one patient to the next, some patients may have symptoms that linger for months or even years following treatment. In rare instances, Lyme Disease causes permanent damage.

Although Lyme Disease is now the most common arthropod-borne illness in the U.S. (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] estimates 300,000 cases per year), its diagnosis and treatment can be challenging for clinicians due to its diverse manifestations and the limitations of currently available serological (blood) tests.

Lyme disease symptoms can appear quickly or gradually over time, and they are incredibly varied and can wax and wane. The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease usually appear in stages.

Early signs and symptoms

  • A rash may develop at the site of the tick bite ( possibly less than 40% of time).
  • Moderate to severe flu-like symptoms (fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes)

Later signs and symptoms (Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation)

Head, Face, Neck

      • Unexplained hair loss
      • Headache, mild or severe, seizures
      • Pressure in head, white matter lesions in brain (MRI)
      • Twitching of facial or other muscles
      • Facial paralysis (Bell’s Palsy, Horner’s syndrome)
      • Tingling of nose, (tip of) tongue, cheek or facial flushing
      • Stiff or painful neck
      • Jaw pain or stiffness
      • Dental problems
      • Sore throat, clearing throat a lot, phlegm (flem), hoarseness, runny nose

Eyes/Vision

      • Double or blurry vision
      • Increased floating spots
      • Pain in eyes, or swelling around eyes
      • Oversensitivity to light
      • Flashing lights, peripheral waves or phantom images in corner of eyes

Ears/Hearing

      • Decreased hearing in one or both ears, plugged ears
      • Buzzing in ears
      • Pain in ears, oversensitivity to sounds
      • Ringing in one or both ears

Digestive and Excretory Systems

      • Diarrhea
      • Constipation
      • Irritable bladder (trouble starting, stopping) or interstitial cystitis
      • Upset stomach (nausea or pain) or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)

Musculoskeletal System

      • Bone pain, joint pain or swelling, carpal tunnel syndrome
      • Stiffness of joints, back, neck, tennis elbow
      • Muscle pain or cramps, (Fibromyalgia)

Respiratory and Circulatory Systems

      • Shortness of breath, can’t get full/satisfying breath, cough
      • Chest pain or rib soreness
      • Night sweats or unexplained chills
      • Heart palpitations or extra beats
      • Endocarditis, heart blockage

Neurologic System

      • Tremors or unexplained shaking
      • Burning or stabbing sensations in the body
      • Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, weakness, peripheral neuropathy or partial paralysis
      • Pressure in the head
      • Numbness in body, tingling, pinpricks
      • Poor balance, dizziness, difficulty walking
      • Increased motion sickness
      • Light-headedness, wooziness

Psychological Well-being

      • Mood swings, irritability, bi-polar disorder
      • Unusual depression
      • Disorientation (getting or feeling lost)
      • Feeling as if you are losing your mind
      • Over-emotional reactions, crying easily
      • Too much sleep, or insomnia
      • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
      • Narcolepsy, sleep apnea
      • Panic attacks, anxiety

Mental Capability

      • Memory loss (short or long term)
      • Confusion, difficulty thinking
      • Difficulty with concentration or reading
      • Going to the wrong place
      • Speech difficulty (slurred or slow)
      • Difficulty finding commonly used words
      • Stammering speech
      • Forgetting how to perform simple tasks

Reproduction and Sexuality

      • Loss of sex drive
      • Sexual dysfunction
      • Unexplained menstrual pain, irregularity
      • Unexplained breast pain, discharge
      • Testicular or pelvic pain

General Well-being

    • Phantom smells
    • Unexplained weight gain or loss
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Swollen glands or lymph nodes
    • Unexplained fevers (high or low grade)
    • Continual infections (sinus, kidney, eye, etc.)
    • Symptoms seem to change, come and go
    • Pain migrates (moves) to different body parts
    • Early on, experienced a “flu-like” illness, after which you have not since felt well
    • Low body temperature
    • Allergies or chemical sensitivities
    • Increased effect from alcohol and possible worse hangover

According to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), “Lyme disease is the latest great imitator and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of MS, ALS, seizure and other neurologic conditions, as well as arthritis, CFS, Gulf war syndrome, ADHD, hypochondriasis, fibromyalgia, somatization disorder and patients with various difficult-to-diagnose multi-system syndromes.” Not only can Lyme disease be incorrectly diagnosed as other conditions, it can also occur concurrently with other conditions or be diagnosed incorrectly. Therefore, patients who suspect Lyme disease must have a full clinical evaluation by a knowledgeable, “Lyme Literate” physician. The best referrals are obtained through local patients and support groups.

Click on the links below for more information on Lyme Disease:

National organizations:
Lyme Disease Association
Lyme Disease Org

Research organizations:
Columbia University Medical Center
Northeastern University

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