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Lyme Disease – The Great Imitator

Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) is the spirochete (spiral-shaped) bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.

While traditionally thought to be transmitted primarily by infected deer ticks, researchers and doctors have now found live spirochetes of Lyme in fleas, mites, and mosquitoes. And although it was first thought the disease couldn’t be transmitted directly from human to human, the live spirochetes have now also been found in blood, urine, tears, semen, breast milk, cord blood, and vaginal secretions. Many doctors who specialize in treating the disease are convinced it can be passed from one infected person to another by sexual contact or through the placenta from mother to baby in utero.

The first symptom of Lyme Disease can be an expanding rash (erythema migrans) that may resemble a bull’s eye. This rash persists for 3 to 5 weeks after disease transmission and has a diameter range of 2-24” (average 5-6”). Around the time that the rash appears other mild symptoms may be noted: joint pains, chills, fever and fatigue. As the spirochete continues to disseminate throughout the body, severe fatigue, a stiff, aching neck, tingling or numbness in the extremities, facial palsy, severe headaches, painful arthritis and joint swelling, cardiac abnormalities and cognitive disorders can occur. Unfortunately, fewer than 30% of chronic Lyme patients report knowingly being bitten by a tick, and even fewer have presented with the classic EM rash. Therefore, lack of these occurrences does not rule out the possibility of Lyme disease.

If diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics, acute Lyme Disease may be completely cured. However, if not accurately diagnosed and adequately treated, the bacterium can travel through the bloodstream, colonize in various body tissues and progress to a chronic, multi-system inflammatory disease that can be severe and debilitating.

Lyme Disease Symptoms May Include:

  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats, hot flashes, chills, low grade fevers
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Stiff neck
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Muscle pain
  • Chest pain and heart palpitations
  • Abdominal pain, nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor concentration and memory loss
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Depression
  • Back pain
  • Blurred vision and eye pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Testicular/pelvic pain
  • Irritable bladder
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Cranial nerve disturbance (facial numbness, pain, tingling, palsy or optic neuritis)
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness

Diseases with Symptoms Similar to Lyme Disease:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • ALS
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Depression/ Anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

Two years ago, a Lyme disease expert, Dan Kinderleher, M.D., stated on the Today Show that the then existing 1.8 million cases cited by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) in Atlanta, Georgia had been under-reported by at least ten times. In the United States, according to this projection, in actuality over 18 million Lyme disease patients now exist.

Testing for Lyme can be helpful but is not always reliable (see Testing). Lyme is primarily a clinical diagnosis based on history and symptoms.