Lyme Disease Awareness Month: What on Earth is Lyme Disease?
I started this blog because I’m on a mission to help people reclaim their health. I want people to know that there are ways to transform the way that you eat and way that you live in order to invite healing into your life. None of us has to wait around for anyone else to tell us how to heal — we can take back our power and start to heal ourselves. We can support our conventional medical treatment with holistic practices in order to build a strong foundation for recovery.
8-years ago I contracted a serious, life altering, bacterial infection called Lyme Disease. It’s an infection that you catch from the bite of a tick: a type of small insect. Lyme Disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in North America, and according to the Center for Disease Control in the United States, there are an estimated 300,000 Americans infected with Lyme Disease, annually. Of course, I have met Lyme patients from all over the world: Australia, Europe, South East Asia and beyond — Lyme Disease is certainly a global issue.
Ticks, like mosquitoes, need to feed on animals in order to survive. Typically, ticks latch onto mammals like mice, rabbits, deer, moles, and songbirds. But they also can latch onto humans. And, I discovered that you don’t have to be deep in the woods to be exposed to ticks. You can be bitten by a tick even if you’re a city dweller who is surrounded mostly by concrete.
Not all tick species, however, carry Lyme Disease. In Canada, the Ixodes Tick, also known as the black-legged or deer-tick, carries the Lyme bacteria.
The Lyme Disease bacteria is called Borrelia Burgdorferi; it’s a spiral shaped bacteria that likes to cork-screw into joint and muscle tissue, nerve cells, and red blood cells. Once in the tissues, blood cells, and central nervous system, Borrelia can then change shape to evade detection from the immune system.
A Lyme infection causes a myriad of symptoms, but most prevalently, it causes flu-like symptoms in the initial stage, followed by pronounced muscle and joint pain, exhaustion, muscle weakness, breathlessness, vertigo, numbness or paralysis, and cognition issues that effect thought processing. In extreme cases, Lyme Disease can even cause death, if the bacteria attacks the heart muscle. (To see a full list of symptoms click here.)
About half of Lyme cases start-off with a Bull’s Eye Rash: a round rash with a white blanched centre. The rash, if present, occurs at the bite location. The red rash is caused by the Lyme bacteria itself. Therefore, if a Bull’s Eye Rash is present, 30-days of antibiotic therapy are definitely required. Note, however, that only 50% of Lyme patients recall being bit by a tick. Half of Lyme cases do not present with a rash or even a memory of being bitten.
Ixodes ticks are hard to spot. They range from poppy-seed size to the size of a sunflower seed. They’re easy to miss, unless they’re large enough to see.
Once a tick attaches to a human or other animal, it will stay attached for over 24-hours. Research shows, however, if you find a tick and remove it from your skin within 24-hours, Lyme bacterial transmission is most likely prevented.
Lyme bacteria is transmitted from a tick to you when the tick regurgitates its stomach contents into your blood stream. Lyme bacteria, and other co-infections, are carried within the stomach of a tick. During feeding, the bacteria in the stomach of the insect flows into the blood stream of the human or animal. Much like when a mosquito transmits Malaria to other humans.
Known as the Great Imitator, patients with Lyme Disease are usually misdiagnosed with other serious illnesses because the symptoms of Lyme Disease are so similar to other conditions like:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- And a whole host of other illnesses
If you have Lyme disease, and you would like to receive my free 8-part email series on the best holistic strategies that I used to support my body during treatment, click the link…
For me, I was initially diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). And, I was left without treatment for 5-years. It wasn’t until I overheard a conversation between two women in my CFS specialist’s office that I heard about Lyme Disease. One of the woman was recounting her story of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis for 10-years, but it turned out to be Lyme Disease. With treatment, she was able to regain mobility and walk again. I made mental notes, and I asked my doctor to test me for Lyme Disease. The results came back positive, and now the rest is history.
Lyme patients typically wait 5-6 years for proper diagnosis. It really is a ridiculous situation. Most doctors have no idea what Lyme Disease is, and they don’t think to test for it. On top of that, the blood testing protocols used in Canada are very unreliable. If a patient has been infected with Lyme Disease for more than a couple of months, the blood test will not detect the presence of Lyme related antibodies. So, the test comes back negative, and your doctors says, ‘you don’t have Lyme’, when in fact you do.
When I decided to get tested for Lyme Disease, I was tested through the Canadian blood testing protocol but I also opted to pay out of pocket to have a more sophisticated blood test completed in an American laboratory that specializes in Lyme Disease blood testing (IGENEX Laboratory). Since, I had been sick for 5-years leading up to testing, not surprisingly, the Canadian test came back negative. But all 3 blood tests from IGENEX came back positive (if you’re familiar with IGENEX testing, my results were positive to CDC standards for the IgG, IgM, and IFA blood tests).
There was no doubt about it…my IGENEX blood test results indicated that I definitely had a chronic and active Lyme infection. After 5-years of waiting, I finally had my answer.
Now, here’s where things get really scary and confusing. My CFS specialist told me that it was obvious that I had Lyme Disease, but she couldn’t treat me for it. My doctor told me that doctors in Canada are not allowed to treat Lyme Disease with antibiotic treatment for more than 30-days. If any doctor exceeds 30-days of treatment, they run the risk of losing their medical license because they are going against the treatment guidelines established by the governing College of Physicians and Surgeons.
I was told to find a doctor in the United States as fast as possible. Since, I had had the infection for 5-years, I would require months to years of treatment. And, I wouldn’t be able to get that treatment in Canada.
I was then faced with the reality that I would have to leave my own country, and pay for my own treatment in the United States.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post to hear what happens next.
Are you a Lyme patient? I’m sure this blog post sounds all too familiar. Leave a comment below to say hello…I would love to hear from you.