Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Since May is designated as Lyme Disease Awareness month I thought it would be a good time for me to share some basics about Lyme.  Lyme Disease has been in the news a lot lately. I have heard more about ticks & Lyme Disease this spring, both on the radio and in the newspaper, than ever before. Lyme was also a featured topic on a recent  Dr. Phil Show.

Our family has been touched by this crazy disease and I have done a lot of research on the topic over the years.

So let me share some of what I have learned.....this is a lot of information to take in all at one time, so you might want to break up your reading a little.

* Lyme disease is prevalent across the United States. Lyme disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states.  Ticks do not know geographic boundaries.  Ohio does have black legged ticks. (I personally believe we are just behind on the surveillance of these ticks, therefore doctors are not necessarily on top of Lyme disease)

* There is a big difference between a dog tick and a black legged tick. Lyme disease is carried by the black legged tick.  The black legged tick is very small, about the size of a poppy seed.  Therefore many people are bitten and never know it.
American dog tick with blacklegged tick male, female, and nymph

Black legged ticks next to a penny



Deer Tick Larva in my leg
Here is a picture of a deer tick attached to a person's leg.  It is obvious how you can miss finding a tick so small.

* Although the classic presentation of Lyme disease is a "bulls eye rash", fewer than 50% of people ever recall a rash.

* Symptoms of Lyme disease vary from person to person.  Early symptoms are flu like: "summer flu" with fatigue, headache, fever, stiff neck, swollen glands, muscle/bone pain, swollen/stiff joints. The initial symptoms tend to go away, but as the disease progresses (over a period of months or even years, depending on your immune system) symptoms vary and come and go with no rhyme or reason.  Odd and unexplained symptoms that effect more than one body system occur and  usually have doctors baffled because the symptoms are not related.

There are over 70 different symptoms caused by Lyme. I will attempt to list some of the symptoms presented by the disease.  Not everyone has the same symptoms and the disease presents itself differently in each person. A person may have just a few symptoms and another may have many symptoms on this list..  That is what makes this disease so crazy! (disclaimer: just because you have a symptom listed below does not mean you have Lyme disease.  You must do your own research and seek proper medical advice if you feel you might have Lyme disease.)





Common symptoms often associated with 
Lyme Disease include:
·  Anxiety 
·
  Bladder dysfunction 
·
  Burning or stabbing pain 
·
  Cardiac Impairment 
·
  Change in bowel function 
·
  Chest pain 
·
  Confusion 
·
  Depression 
·
  Difficulty thinking or concentration 
·
  Difficulty speaking or reading 
·
  Difficulty finding words, name blocking 
·
  Disorientation. Get lost easily 
·
  Disturbed sleep:too much, too little 
·
  Ears/Hearing:buzzing, ringing in ears 
·
  Eyes -double, blurry, floaters, light sensitive 
·
  Facial paralysis (Bell's palsy) 
·
  Fatigue tiredness, poor stamina 
·
  Forgetfullness 
·
  Headache/Migraines 
·
  Heart block/Heart murmur 
·
  Heart palpitations 
·
  Heart valve prolapse 
·
  Increased motion sickness 
·
  Irritability 
·
  Irritable bladder 
·
  Joint pain or swelling 
·
  Lightheadedness 
·
  Low back pain 
·
  Mood swings 
·
  Muscle pain or cramps


·  Neck creaks & cracks 
·
  Neck stiffness, pain 
·
  Numbness 
·
  Pelvic pain 
·
  Poor attention 
·
  Poor balance 
·
  Poor short-term memory 
·
  Problems absorbing new information 
·
  Pulse skips 
·
  Rib soreness 
·
  Sexual disfunction/loss of libido 
·
  Shooting pains 
·
  Shortness of breath; cough 
·
  Skin hypersensitivity 
·
  Sore throat 
·
  Stiffness of the joints or back 
·
  Swollen glands 
·
  Testicular pain 
·
  Tingling 
·
  Tremor 
·
  Twitching of the face or other muscles 
·
  Unexplained breast pain 
·
  Unexplained fever, sweats, chills, flushing 
·
  Unexplained hair loss 
·
  Unexplained menstrual irregularity 
·
  Unexplained milk production 
·
  Unexplained weight loss or gain 
·
  Upset stomach or abdominal pain 
·
  Vertigo 
·
  Wooziness



  Important:  symptoms seem to change, come and go 
and the pain migrates (moves) to different body parts.


Lyme disease is considered the Great Imitator and can mimic many other diseases.


 Lyme Disease is often misdiagnosed as:
·  Alzheimer's Disease 
·
  Irritable Bowel Syndrome 
·
  Multiple Sclerosis 
·
  Parkinson's Disease 
·
  ALS 
·
  ADD/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 
·
  Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue 
·
  Chronic Pain
·  Schizophrenia 
·
  Autoimmune Diseases 
·
  Anxiety/Depression/Insomnia 
·
  Degenerative Disc Disease 
·
  GERD 
·
  Lupus 
·
  ADD/ADHD 
·  Vertigo/Migraines



To complicate things more, most Lyme infected people are also infected with  one or more co-infections (other tick related diseases).

Lyme disease must be a clinical diagnosis made by a doctor who is literate about Lyme disease (an LLMD as they are often titled).  The ELISA test that most doctors offices use is unreliable and was never meant to be a diagnostic tool.  According to a Johns Hopkins published study, the test is only 30-50% accurate.

Most doctors have been taught to treat Lyme with a 10 day course of antibiotics, but that is not enough. After that short course of antibiotics, many people go onto develop a dessemenated case of Lyme and are told they have everything but Lyme because they were already treated and cured of the disease. 

But, if caught early Lyme disease should actually be treated with 6-8 weeks of antibiotics.  An uncomplicated case of chronic Lyme disease requires an average of 6-12 months of high dose antibiotics.  The return of symptoms indicates need for further treatment.  Many people with Lyme disease require treatment for 1-4 years, or until the patient is symptom free.  The very real consequences of untreated chronic persistent Lyme infection far outweigh the potential consequences of long term antibiotic therapy.

Note: There is a huge controversy in the medical community regarding Lyme disease. The Infectious Disease Society of America feels 10 days of antibiotics is enough and then any symptoms that continue are not related to Lyme or are considered "post-Lyme syndrome." That is why it is important to seek out a Lyme literate doctor who knows how to treat the disease with long term antibiotics, nutritional supplements, and other healing protocols.  Lyme is a tricky disease to treat.  The spirochete (bacteria) hides out in your body and changes forms so to evade the antibiotics and survive using you as a host.


Protecting against Lyme disease:
* Use insect repellents on your skin and on your clothes.  Use an insect repellent that contains at least 25% DEET.  You can also purchase an insect repellent for clothing, gear and tents (not skin) that contains Permetherin. If a tick crawls on the treated item it dies. Another plus is that the treated items can be laundered several times and it will still be effective.  http://www.tickencounter.org/resources/ticks_crawl_up
* Wear light colored pants and tuck your pants into your socks.  Stay out of leaf litter and brushy, weedy areas.
 * Be sure to check yourself and your pets when you get back in your house. People checking each other can help spot those areas you can't easily see yourself. 
* Showering is good, but doesn't actually remove all ticks.  They are very attached!  Put your clothes in the dryer for a half hour or more to kill off any that are in your clothes. 
* If you find a tick, remove it promptly with fine pointed tweezers. Do not squeeze the tick, pull gently and straight out. Do not us patroluem jelly, a match, alcohol,  dish soap or anything else. 

* You can treat your yard with Sevin yard granules.  Read the bag and make sure the granules are effective against deer ticks. Follow the directions and be sure to apply the required amount necessary to kill deer ticks.
Here is a link to a good video from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  Although the title of the article is Beware of Ticks in Winter, the video discusses more than just ticks in winter. The 9 minute video discusses where ticks live, how they find their next meal, how to protect yourself, myths about ticks, etc.  It is a very good video that I recommend everyone watch. 
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Default.aspx?tabid=23808&fb_source=message
If you find a deer tick in Ohio here is where you can send it for identification.  A FREE service for identification and disease testing of ticks is provided by:
The Ohio Department of Health
Zoonotic Disease Program
8955 E. Main St.
Reynoldsburg, OH 43068
Telephone: 614-752-1029
Fax: 614-644-1057  

• Ticks can be identified whether dead or alive, but only
live ticks can be tested for disease.
• Place the live tick in a small, tightly sealed container
(pill bottle, film container, etc.) or zippered plastic bag,
along with a few blades of green grass to provide moisture.
• Store the tick in a cool place until it can be mailed to the
above address.
• Prompt mailing of the tick is best. Include a note with
the collection date and the county where the tick was
found. Indicate whether it was attached to a human or
companion animal.
• Contact the Ohio Department of Health’s Zoonotic
Disease Program (see above) if you have any questions
about ticks and testing available.
Well, that is your lesson on ticks and Lyme disease.   Hope I have provided you with some information that will be helpful if you ever find a tick attached to you or a loved one.   Lyme disease is not something to mess with.  Many people have gone through years of unnecessary suffering all because they did not know the potential risks of being bitten by a teeny tiny bug.
The biggest lesson I have learned through all this is that we need to be our own advocates when it comes to our health and the health of those we love.  Go with your gut instincts and don't let anyone tell you you are just imagining things. Continue to seek answers until you are satisfied.










                   





//