The elusive thing about Lyme disease is, depending upon the patient, a person might not exhibit any of the classic symptoms in an obvious way. In fact, a low percentage of adults (with a higher percentage in children) actually do. Less than 10% of adults tend to exhibit the tell-tale rash and less than 20% tend to present joint pain or fever. All of these are considered the classic early-onset symptoms and even with them, many doctors can be reluctant to prescribe treatment as a means to combat the illness.

1. Symptoms and how they mimic other major illnesses
2. How to get tested and diagnosed
4. What is a Herxheimer reaction?


Lyme Disease Symptoms:

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It is becoming more commonly known that Lyme and tick-borne disease symptoms can mimic other well-known and frequently-diagnosed diseases. According to Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, a practicing MD who treats patients from around the world from his headquarters in Woodinville, WA, “We never had in the last 5 years a single MS patient, a single ALS patient, a single Parkinson’s patient, who did not test positive for Borrelia Burgdorferi (the Lyme disease bacteria). Not a single one.” (quote from the film “Under Our Skin”).

Because of this, patients who have already been diagnosed with the following illnesses might want to consider a Lyme disease test, especially if they are not improving in their current treatment:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Arthritis (rheumatoid, reactive, infectious, juvenile, or osteoarthritis)
  • Autoimmune conditions, such as Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Epstein-Barré syndrome
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS
  • Early Alzheimer’s or early Parkinson’s disease
  • Psychiatric disorders (like bipolar or depression)
  • Food sensitivities and intolerance
  • Mold sensitivity
  • Light sensitivity
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
  • Electric sensitivity (EMF/RF)
  • Autoimmune thyroid
  • Anxiety

 

Early on-set symptoms:

The following are the most commonly-presented symptoms of early Lyme.

  • Tick bite
  • Classic “bulls eye” rash (erythema migrans) around the bite
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Neck stiffness
  • Partial facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy)
  • Joint & muscle pain
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Memory loss
  • Heart palpitations

Note: Depending upon the patient, a person might not exhibit any of these symptoms in an obvious way. In fact, less than 10% of adults (with a higher percentage in children) tend to exhibit the tell-tale rash and less than 20% tend to present joint pain or fever. While all of these are considered the classic early-onset symptoms, other less-common symptoms do occur and should be investigated.

 

Chronic Lyme disease symptoms:

Heart and nervous system problems may develop weeks to months after the initial infection, including:

  • Pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms or legs.
  • A gradual inability to control the muscles of one side of the face (paralysis of the facial nerves).
  • Irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath.
  • Severe headache and stiffness in the neck.

Damage to the joints, nerves, and brain may develop months to years after a person becomes infected, causing:

  • Swelling, pain, or redness in the joints.
  • Poor memory and reduced ability to concentrate.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, or back.
  • Severe fatigue
  • Difficulty with concentration, reading, spelling
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Mood swings, irritability, agitation
  • Poor balance, dizziness, difficulty walking
  • Increased motion sickness, wooziness
  • Lightheadedness, fainting
  • Unexplained menstrual pain, irregularity
  • Reproduction problems, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth
  • Liver inflammation
  • Bladder & Kidney problemsUnexplained weight loss or gain
  • Ringing or buzzing in ears
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Wandering or lazy eye
  • Eye pain or swelling around eyes
  • Floaters/spots in the line of sight
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Night sweats or unexplained chills
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain or rib soreness
  • Joint pain, swelling, or stiffness
  • Loss of muscle tone, muscle weakness
  • Ataxia or vertigo


How and where to get tested for Lyme disease:

To get the most accurate blood testing results possible, ask your physician to use both the ELISA and Western Blot tests. (If your insurance company will only pay for one test, you should consider paying for the other test yourself.)  Remember, you have the right as a patient to request any testing you feel is necessary, and to receive copies of the results.  At times doctors will test spinal fluid for antibodies especially if there are neurological symptoms.  All of these tests, however, may give false negative results even when the patient is infected with Lyme or other tick-borne disease.

In fact, current diagnostic testing can be so inaccurate and even subjective that many veteran Lyme-literate practitioners have resorted to diagnosing patients through their medical history. The problem with testing through blood is, the current tests only detect a handful of the currently known 36 varieties of borrellia burdorferi.

Since results and interpretation of blood tests vary from lab to lab, ask your physician if it would be possible to send the blood to more than one lab.  The following are some of the labs with experience in Lyme disease testing:


ELISA – The screening test most frequently used when Lyme disease is first suspected. This test only measures antibodies in the blood, which can be problematic.  A two-tier testing program is most often utilized by running a first screen ELISA test and waiting for results.  If positive, physicians will then run a Western Blot confirmatory test. The results of the ELISA can be either falsely positive or negative. Results that are falsely negative may be due to factors including lack of antibody response, testing too early, being on antibiotics or antibody complexing.  Many people are never tested beyond this point and are told they do not have Lyme disease based on this one test.

Western Blot – This also tests for antibodies and reports reactivity of 10 different protein bands of which 5 must be positive for CDC surveillance (reporting) purposes.  This is generally considered the most reliable test currently available (although it is estimated to be only 80% sensitive even at the best labs).  Many doctors will not consider using this test unless the ELISA is positive, thus missing an important diagnostic tool.


Herxheimer Reaction:

A Jarrish-Herxheimer reaction or “die-off syndrome” is caused by the presence of toxic chemicals (endotoxins) released from the cell walls of dying bacteria. It is a common reaction in Lyme patients during intensive treatment and sometimes even during periods of non-treatment. Due to the release of toxins, the body experiences an exaggerated inflammation response and a flaring of symptoms, coupled with the possible emergence of new symptoms. The typical Herxheimer reaction or “Herx” lasts a few hours to a few days depending on the intensity of treatment and the body’s inflammation response. Many patients also experience a brief period of feeling better shortly after the herxing has subsided.

Although a die off or detox reaction is usually short lived, it can be more prolonged or intense if the organs of elimination (especially the liver and kidneys) are overburdened and detox pathways are blocked. In these instances, treatments may require reevaluation, and individuals may need to investigate additional factors involved in heightened histamine, and cytokine production. Mast cell degranulation can be another cause of painful or protracted symptoms, and increased histamine levels may need to be addressed.

What to do in the event of a Herxheimer reaction:

  • Gradually reduce or briefly discontinue treatment until symptoms subside
  • Increase water intake to flush the system of toxins (be sure and add multiple mineral salts to your water to keep electrolytes stable)
  • Consider taking 20 drops of Burbur-Pinella detox and nerve cleanse in a 6 oz. glass of water, every 10-15 minutes until major symptoms subside.
  • Eliminate foods that are known to cause inflammation like refined sugar, processed foods and dairy products
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Soak in an Epson Salts bath (unless you have sulfur sensitivity, then use mineral or Dead Sea salt detox baths)
  • Remove stored toxins in the bowel with a purified-water or coffee enema (you can use distilled water, and be certain that your coffee is organic green, specially labeled for enema purposes)
  • Dry brushing the skin with a loofah sponge or special brush can stimulate the lymphatic system and should be done prior to a detox bath

The above material is provided for informational purposes only. The material is not nor should be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.