Dec 08 2011
You cannot be a health practitioner in Connecticut without recognizing that Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illness is becoming more and more common. It’s a rare day these past 3 years that I do not see a patient struggling with tick-borne disease (TBD). Initially, one of the most challenging aspects of treating these patients is convincing them that what they have is real. Of course, some patients, and some practitioners, will see Lyme disease everywhere they look. That can be a problem.
Conversely, I have found that many people have fallen victim to the traditional medical view–staunchly promoted by Yale/New Haven infectious disease doctors–that chronic Lyme disease does not exist and that anyone that thinks they have chronic Lyme is crazy. This is somewhat of a mind-blowing assertion to me. Once you have seen personally the ravages of TBD, it is no small matter to deny that these infections can affect not only your musculoskeletal system (I have had a number of patients arrive in wheelchairs) but your brain and neurological system, your heart, your digestive tract, your kidneys, your skin and your endocrine organs.
I’ve seen patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, irritable bowel syndrome, bradycardia, multiple sclerosis, idiopathic migraines, panic disorder, bipolar and learning disabilities when the actual root of the problem is an infection with one or more pathogens carried by ticks. The effects of global warming, the explosion of deer population and the variability of the bacteria have all contributed to increasing rates of this disease. To top it off, testing methods are often inaccurate and a diagnosis must sometimes be made on clinical information alone. Only 30% of patients remember being bitten by a tick and even of those many do not go on to develop the hallmark “target lesion” of Lyme disease.
The organism that is responsible for Lyme disease is Borellia burgdorferi, part of the phylum spirochete. This is the same phylum as Treponema pallidum, the organism that causes syphilis. In the heyday of syphilis it was called the “great imitator” due to it’s many manifestations in the body and on the skin. Lyme too can look like many other diseases. Also like syphilis, Borrelia can go latent, form “cysts” or “biofilms”, and go undetected by your immune system only to wreak havoc later when your stress levels are high or you have an injury. I’ve heard many a story along those lines.
The use of antibiotics is a controversial topic because many chronic patients cannot tolerate the side effects of the drugs. In acute or sub-acute phases of TBD I often do recommend that patients use antibiotics to reduce the bacterial load. But in every case, the true meaning of treating Lyme disease is to help rebuild the tissues that the spirochetes have invaded and damaged. This can take months and even years in some cases. I use herbal anti-microbials (to kill spirochetes) but also attempt to disrupt the bacteria’s ability to communicate with one another, to break down biofilms, to rebuild various tissues depending on the symptom picture of the patient and which area has been most affected. Sadly, many chronic patients have multiple systems involved.