Many people know that Lyme disease takes its name from the town where it was first “discovered” – Lyme, Connecticut. What many people do not know, is that Lyme disease is believed to have been active worldwide for many centuries, as evidenced by ancient medical texts, and even genetic analysis of rodent pelts preserved in museums.
Lyme disease was officially discovered by the western medical community beginning in 1975, when a group of anxious mothers living in Lyme, Connecticut contacted public health authorities due to a rash of cases of joint inflammation in numerous children in their community. Thirty-nine children and twelve adults were studied by researchers at Yale University, and given a diagnosis for their mysterious ailment – “Lyme Arthritis.”
Eventually the bacteria, a spirochete similar to syphilis, was isolated in 1982 by researcher Willy Burgdorfer – an expert in spirochetal diseases – and was named “Borrelia burgdorferi” (Bb). The disease was quickly determined to be spread through the bite of a tick – specifically the “Ixodes” species of tick. As new cases continued to appear, health officials fought hard to find a treatment to kill the bacterial infection. Additionally, it was imperative to strengthen the patient’s immune system and alleviate the painful symptoms.
As the disease continued to spread, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) became involved and attempted to compile a standard for measuring the “epidemic.” Although their position paper clearly states that Lyme Disease is diagnosed by symptoms, using blood tests for support of diagnosis, the collection of statistics uses only those patients who have a certain level of antibodies in their blood, ignoring the presence (or lack) of symptoms. That fact -along with the long and difficult reporting for doctors, leads to gross under-reporting.
Dr. Jonathon Edlow at Harvard Medical School claims that actual numbers could be 10 times higher than the numbers the CDC publishes. Other sources place the number much higher due to hundreds and thousands of people who are misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS, chronic fatigue and even Lou Gherig’s disease, along with those patients who have symptoms outside the CDC targeted vectors. Some estimates approach 300,000 new cases per year, but the total national count is unknown.
There are 850 tick species, and approximately 100 can transmit disease. It is no wonder that Lyme is now a world-wide disease.
Biology of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease, simply stated, is a multi-systemic bacterial infection spread primarily through the bite of an infected tick. But there is nothing simple about this virulent organism. It’s official name is Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), and it was initially classified with protozoa because it is so unique. Borrelia possesses the largest number of DNA replicators making it amongst the most complex bacteria in the world.
The “morphic” enigma.
Watch this informational video describing how Lyme disease works inside your body. The presentation was produced by Envita Medical Center (I have no financial interest in promoting their procedures and do not have any information or testimonials on their treatment. However, they have produced a number of excellent videos that can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/EnvitaMedicalCenter.
Borrelia burgdorferi is a spiral-shaped “spirochete’ when it enters the human blood stream, and uses that active form to quickly disperse throughout the body and the “tunnel” into soft tissue. This “smart” bacteria will quickly and easily change it’s genetic structure into two other cell forms: the “L” form and the “cyst” form; and will link up in different combinations of the three forms.
Some of the more frightening aspects of Lyme disease are:
- Increasing evidence that the bacteria is spread by biting insects other than ticks
- Increasing evidence that the bacteria can be transmitted sexually
But perhaps the most frightening aspect of Lyme disease is the intelligent survival nature of the bacteria:
- It immediately adjusts its DNA to evade the immune system of its new host.
- It can “encyst” within one minute when endangered making it impervious to antibiotics, freezing and thawing.
- In lab studies, the spirochete removed from the test subject was genetically different from the spirochete that had been initially injected
- It can burrow into any tissue, even blood cells to avoid detection, but most commonly bile and other harmless microbes or parasites
- It rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier and wreaks havoc with the central nervous system and glandular functions
Lyme Disease Symptom List
The following symptom list is abbreviated and based on 1990 – 2005 knowledge. All symptom combinations vary greatly from person to person. In February 2012, Dr. James Schaller has recently published a complete resource manual “What You May Not Know About Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Diseases” (800 pages of up-to-date information and the source material) that includes more comprehensive symptom lists for Lyme, Bartonella and Babesia. See Dr. Schaller’s Resource Book. Check table of contents for symptom lists.
The hallmark of Lyme disease is for symptoms to mysteriously appear and then disappear weeks later, or for pain to move around the body. It is important to note that you can be infected for years without becoming disabled due to the morphologic nature of the bacteria. In other words, the disease can lie dormant in your body for months or years, taking over when you are worn down physically or if your immune system is suddenly (or gradually) compromised. If you have symptoms in two or more bodily systems, you should consult a “Lyme-literate” doctor.
Have you had any of the following?
The Tick Bite
- Tick bite (deer, dog, or other)
- Rash at site of tick bite
- Rashes on other parts of your body
- Rash (basically circular – called “bulls-eye” rash) and spreading out
- Raised rash, disappearing and returning
Head, Face, Neck
- Unexplained hair loss
- Headache, mild or severe
- Twitching of facial or other muscles
- Facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy)
- Tingling of nose, cheek, or face
- Stiff or painful neck, creaks and cracks
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Sore throat
- Double or blurry vision
- Increased floating spots
- Pain in eyes, or swelling around eyes
- Oversensitivity to light
- Flashing lights
- Decreased hearing in one or both ears
- Buzzing in ears
- Pain in ears, oversensitivity to sound
- Ringing in one or both ears
Digestive and Excretory Systems
- Irritable bladder (trouble starting, stopping)
- Upset stomach (nausea or pain)
- Any joint pain or swelling
- Stiffness of joints, back, neck
- Muscle pain or cramps
Respiratory and Circulatory Systems
- Shortness of breath, cough
- Chest pain or rib soreness
- Night sweats or unexplained chills
- Heart palpitations or extra beats
- Heart blockage
- Tremors or unexplained shaking
- Burning or stabbing sensations in the body
- Weakness or partial paralysis
- Pressure in the head
- Numbness in body, tingling, pinpricks
- Poor balance, dizziness, difficulty walking
- Increased motion sickness
- Lightheadedness, wooziness
- Mood swings, irritability
- Unusual depression
- Disorientation (getting or feeling lost)
- Feeling as if you are losing your mind
- Overemotional reactions, crying easily
- Too much sleep or insomnia
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Memory loss (short or long term)
- Confusion, difficulty in thinking
- Difficulty with concentration or reading
- Going to the wrong place
- Speech difficulty (slurred or slow)
- 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
- Pelvic pain
General Well Being
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Swollen glands
- 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
This list was compiled by Denise Lang, author of “Coping with Lyme Disease” but is by no means conclusive. If you suspect you have Lyme disease, visit www .lymediseaseassociation.org to find a “Lyme-literate” doctor in your area.