An Excerpt from “Treating Lyme Disease: Learn about proper testing, treatment and what to expect”
Lyme disease is a condition caused by the bacterial infection Borrelia Burgdorferi. It was discovered in the 1970’s in Old Lyme, Connecticut when residents reported an outbreak of arthritis in their town to Yale scientists. Originally Lyme was thought to be an arthritic condition; it took several years of research to discover the cause of the symptoms. It is estimated that there are over 30,000 reported cases per year, but sadly 80%-90% have no idea they are even infected. Thus, the incidence is likely many fold higher. Many people suffering from Lyme are often misdiagnosed with a wide range of chronic illnesses because of the multitude of symptoms.
Lyme disease is skyrocketing even in areas that supposedly have a low incidence of Lyme. The most Lyme prone regions are the coastal northeast, Mid-Atlantic States, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and northern California, but no state or area is spared from this scourge. As a global issue, it is critical that people are well informed of Lyme, how it can be contracted, and what signs and symptoms may be associated with infection. Otherwise, patients can suffer from numerous symptoms, but their doctors never connect the dots and think of Lyme disease as the cause. Patients go on suffering, being misdiagnosed with a wide-range of conditions.
Lyme Disease: The Great Imitator
Borrelia Burgdorferi has been given the unofficial title of “the great imitator” because of its ability to mimic nearly every chronic condition. The bacterial infection causing Lyme can invade every tissue in the body and shift its shape constantly, which makes it very difficult to diagnose and treat. Not only do medical professionals have a hard time diagnosing Lyme because of its ability to mimic so many symptoms of so many illnesses, but the immune system also has a difficult time recognizing and fighting Borrelia Burgdorferi.
There are six known forms that Borrelia Burgdorferi can shift into once it has infected a body, which includes the free-floating spirochete, the intracellular L-form, round body, cystic form, granular form, the persistorcell and as part of a biofilm. Each form has different sensitivities and resistance to antibiotics, this complex interaction with antibiotics makes standardization of antibiotic treatment difficult.
Transmission of Lyme
The most common method for contracting Lyme disease is through a tick bite, but can also be transmitted by fleas, mosquitoes, bed bugs, and other vectors. There has been new evidence recently to show that mothers can transmit Lyme in utero (mother to child), which is especially scary for women who do not know they have Lyme or have been misdiagnosed with another chronic illness. When ticks or other vectors puncture the skin, they pass on whatever bacteria they are currently carrying, which can include Borrelia Burgdorferi and other infectious organisms. The vectors saliva acts as a protective covering for Borrelia Burgdorferi allowing the bacteria to slip into the body undetected by the immune system. This delays the body’s immune response giving the bacteria time to establish itself in the body making it harder to remove and treat the infection.
Borrelia Burgdorferi transferred by ticks and other vectors spread throughout the body rapidly by way of the bloodstream. Since Borrelia Burgdorferi moves throughout the bloodstream, it can reach and impact any organ or critical system including, the brain, muscles, joints, or heart. Within 12 hours the infection can reach the central nervous system and affect neurological function. Because of the speed of this infection and the damage it can do in such a short amount of time, it is imperative to try to treat with antibiotics as quickly as possible to increase the likelihood they will be able to kill the infection. Unfortunately, most people with chronic Lyme do not recall a tick bite or symptoms that could have been from the initial infection.
The Three Stages of Lyme Disease and Your Immune System
There are three stages of Lyme disease: early localized disease (acute), early disseminated and late disseminated (chronic). Stage 1 (acute) is classified as the time from the bite happening to about two weeks after the bite. If you can catch the infection early in this phase, you have the highest possibility of curing the disease with antibiotics. Stage 2, early disseminated stage takes place several weeks to months after infection. This is the stage where symptoms become more prominent, and your body tries to fight the infection. Antibiotics as the only treatment are not very effective, and your body’s immune system may start to do more harm than good because of the constantly changing Borrelia Burgdorferi. Stage 3 is the chronic stage, which spans the lifetime of the disease. Most patients will go long periods without symptoms during this stage. However, your immune system will start to break down after years of work. This is often when people start getting misdiagnosed with the wrong chronic illness.
There are two sides to your immune system, TH1, and TH2. TH1 is effective against organisms that are inside the cells, while TH2 affects organism outside the cell. The Borrelia bacteria transforms from an acute to a chronic infection by suppressing the intracellular TH1 immunity (transforming the body to a TH2 “extracellular” dominant response) and then converting from a free-swimming spirochete in the blood into an intracellular form (L-form) to escape the elevated extracellular TH2 immune attack. The suppressed intracellular TH1 immunity becomes unable to effectively eradicate the L-form, and the disease becomes chronic.
The suppressed and down-regulated TH1 intracellular immune response is the hallmark of transformation to late-stage Lyme dissemination. While there are many controversies surrounding the diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease, identification of this immune dysfunction that is consistently found in this illness can greatly aid in the diagnosis of tick-borne illness and help identify the stage and even severity of the illness. The level of immune dysfunction may also be the single most important determinant of treatment success. Thus, appropriate immune modulating therapies that are able to restore normal functioning immunity may be the biggest necessary leap forward in the development of an effective treatment protocol for this multi-system illness.
Understanding Lyme Disease
A large percentage of patients never get properly diagnosed; it often takes years for individuals to get a proper diagnosis, and it is even less likely they will ever receive effective treatment. Taking the time to understand Lyme disease from the beginning is so important for people suffering so they can get the best treatment. Learn more about Lyme disease, its symptoms and your treatment options in our FREE Treating Lyme Disease e-book.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to uncover and address Lyme disease. If you are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease or if you’ve been diagnosed with Lyme, but aren’t getting the treatment you need, call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!