Overview of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis) is the most prevalent tick-borne infectious
disease in the United States. The disease is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria, predominantly
in the Borrelia genus (commonly B. burgdorferi), carried by a
number of species of the Ixodes genus of tick (commonly the deer tick or
black-legged tick). The bacterium is transferred via the tick's saliva into the
bloodstream of its victim. Once infected, symptoms may include fever, neck stiffness,
mild to severe fatigue, arthritis, and neurological problems.
In humans, the disease is most often contracted between spring and late summer.
The Ixodes nymphs first appear in the spring in the leaf litter and brush at the
edges of wooded lots, and are often no bigger than the head of a pin. The adult-stage
tick, which is more common later in the summer, is about the size of an apple seed.
Once bitten, the classic sign that infection has occurred is a red "bulls-eye"
rash. This rash usually appears within three days after the bite, but may take as
long as 30 days to develop. Although classic the rash is not a reliable diagnostic
indicator, however, as it appears in only 37% to 70% of people infected (depending
upon the source quoted).
If treated early enough, the likelihood is good that the B. burgdorferi spirochete can be completely eliminated with antibiotics, and the bite sufferer
completely cured. In a percentage of those who are treated, and additionally in
those who don't know they've been infected and who therefore go untreated, the disease
can become a chronic condition, accompanied by a complex set of symptoms including
fatigue, arthritis, joint pain, heart problems, and neurological problems, among
others, that in some cases become debilitating.
The Lyme Disease Trajectory
The disease was first reported in the Lyme, Connecticut region in 1975, from whence
the name originates. Although the organisms involved are of ancient origin, Lyme
is characterized as a "potent emerging disease" because of its rapid expansion
in time and place.
Data from the CDC show reported annual incidence rates doubled in the United States
between 1992 and 2006, from almost 10,000 reported cases in 1992 to almost 20,000
cases in 2006, with the vast majority concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest.
A total of nearly one-quarter million new cases were reported to the CDC during
this 15-year period.
The most recent CDC data (for 2008) show nearly 29,000 confirmed cases, and nearly
6,300 probable cases that year. It is believed among some Lyme experts, however,
that the actual incidence of Lyme disease could be as much as ten times higher than
CDC data indicate, and tens of thousands of cases, if not many more, have not been
reported at all.
During that same 15-year period more than 90% of the cases came from ten states—Connecticut,
Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island and Wisconsin—where deer ticks are most common. Children between
the ages of 5 to 14 were reported as having the highest incidence of infection,
with over half the cases occurring among young males.
The reported geographic range of the Ixodes tick has expanded in these ten states,
and its spread is predicted to continue to expand beyond the tick's previously established
natural range. Bioclimate data suggest that milder winters and more humid conditions
are dominant features in this expansion of Ixodes scapularis populations,
posing a serious challenge to human health.
Fortunately, awareness of the disease among health care providers is also growing.
Yet many health care providers are not highly "Lyme-literate," and may
have difficulty diagnosing Lyme disease if the telltale rash does not appear or
goes unnoticed. The nature of disease progression in Lyme disease can be complex
and highly variable, presenting symptoms easily confused with other ailments. Further
complicating diagnosis is the possibility of co-infection with other tick-borne
diseases carried by the Ixodes tick. If you feel you may have been bitten and have
the signature "bulls-eye" rash, or if the rash does not appear but you
are experiencing flu-like symptoms, it's important that you be checked by a knowledgeable
doctor about the possibility of Lyme infection. Early detection and treatment are
the best means for avoiding the damaging long-term effects of chronic Lyme disease.
Begin Your Journey to Wellness with Patients Medical
The effects of chronic Lyme disease can significantly affect your health, livelihood, and overall well-being. Conventional antibiotic therapy may provide an initial sense of relief, but if your symptoms should return, continue, or worsen in spite of conventional therapy, as they do in many Lyme sufferers, broadening your therapeutic options is a worthwhile step toward restoring both your health and your sense of well-being.
At Patients Medical we draw upon both modern and ancient healing arts to tackle the oft-times bewildering problems chronic Lyme disease presents in our patients. Our team of Lyme experts can develop a personalized, integrative treatment protocol designed to optimize your long-term health and support you in countering the symptoms and detrimental effects of Lyme disease.
Begin Your Healing with Patients Medical
Overview of Lyme Disease—Citations
and Further Reading
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3. Follow-Up Consultation
At a follow-up visit, meet with your Patients Medical physician to discuss your customized Lyme disease plan developed specifically for you. Your physician will evaluate your progress during each follow-up visit, modifying the plan to help you attain maximum health.
Date of Publication: 09/05/2005
Article Last Updated: 08/23/2013