Lyme disease is a complex and serious illness that can cause severe health problems if not treated early and properly. The number of Lyme disease cases annually is growing, with the CDC stating that there are approximately 30,000 new cases each year in the United States alone. However, it is estimated that the actual number of cases is more than 10 times higher because thousands of cases go undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or untreated.
Below are some of the reasons people with Lyme disease struggle to get a proper diagnosis:
Not Everyone Infected with Lyme Develops a Bullseye Rash:
Although a commonly recognized sign of an initial Lyme disease infection is an erythema migrans (EM) or “bulls-eye” rash, this rash may appear in only about half of the cases. People are often bitten and do not pursue treatment because they are unaware of their own exposure to the illness.
Ticks Are Not the Sole Transmitter of Lyme Disease:
Another common myth is that the only way to be exposed to Lyme is through a tick bite. Unfortunately, this is untrue as other insects may also transmit and carry Lyme disease. Some of the insects known to transmit Lyme include mosquitoes, fleas, mites, and other biting bugs.
Research also suggests that Lyme may be transmitted through raw food, placenta, breast milk, feces, blood, saliva, urine, and sexual intercourse.
Standard Testing Misses Over 90% of Chronic Lyme Cases:
Standard blood tests for Lyme disease are often inaccurate, especially when testing occurs soon after transmission. This is in part because the guidelines around a “positive test” are hard to solidify. The CDC identifies a positive Lyme diagnosis as at least five out of ten total markers from a standard blood test. This means that someone could be exhibiting the three most common markers and still not be diagnosed with Lyme.
Ticks Can Transmit More than Lyme Disease:
Part of the complication with Lyme disease is that, when bitten by a tick, people can be exposed to other pathogens that also carry illnesses. These are called coinfections. A survey of chronic Lyme-infected individuals found that 50% had at least one coinfection, while almost 30% had at least two. So, if you have Lyme disease, there is a chance some of your symptoms may be due to a coinfection.
Lyme is the “Great Imitator”:
Lyme is often called “The Great Imitator” because it does not look the same in every patient and it mimics several other illnesses. Lyme is associated with over 150 symptoms, making it complicated to recognize and diagnose. Lyme disease typically first presents as flu-like symptoms so most people do not realize it could be Lyme. Additionally, Lyme affects multiple systems in the body including the brain, nervous system, muscles, joints, and the heart. Lyme patients are frequently treated for just one of these issues. For instance, those with Lyme exhibiting neurological issues are commonly misdiagnosed with neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Although Lyme is often difficult to recognize, it is not impossible. Being aware of the symptoms can help you reach a diagnosis and begin treatment faster:
- Chronic Fatigue: debilitating fatigue as the immune system struggles to fight Lyme, other infections, and inflammation.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Once infected with Lyme disease, the immune system may begin to attack itself and its own tissues. This can escalate to rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or other autoimmune diseases.
- Joint Pain: Lyme disease and its coinfections steal the nutrients from your joints and trigger inflammation. This can result in joint pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility in previously healthy joints. This symptom may be misdiagnosed as arthritis.
- Brain Fog: Lyme bacteria can cross your blood-brain barrier and can cause dysfunction in brain cells due to a buildup of toxins, causing brain fog, memory issues, and overall poor cognitive performance.
- Heart: Lyme carditis is when the bacteria from Lyme enters the tissue of the heart, interfering with the normal movement of electrical signals. A patient may be misdiagnosed with an arrhythmia.
Lyme disease is not only overlooked because it imitates other common illnesses, but it is also due to its wide range of symptoms. These symptoms vary from minor to severe. Below are some of the most overlooked Lyme disease symptoms:
The Overlooked Symptoms:
- Skin Problems: Lyme has been linked to skin conditions like morphea (scleroderma), lichen sclerosis, and more recently B-cell lymphoma.
- Heart Problems: Lyme patients may experience heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath as a byproduct of Lyme attacking the heart muscle and interfering with the electrical communication between your heart chambers.
- Digestive Issues: Lyme disease can also disrupt the gut microbiome and result in nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, abdominal pain, and chronic loose stools.
- Abdominal Pain: Lyme is associated with liver pain and disruption. In one study, 40% of Lyme-infected patients had at least one abnormality in their liver function.
- Meat Allergies: After contracting Lyme, you may develop a meat allergy. Although research is still being conducted on this, current studies suspect it is due to the sudden rise of inflammatory chemicals released from the infection.
- Paralysis: Another unusual symptom that is often not thought of being associated with Lyme disease is paralysis. Typically, this symptom appears on the face and is often misdiagnosed as Bell’s palsy diagnosis. This occurs in an estimated 11% of Lyme-infected people.
- Hair loss: People infected with Lyme can develop alopecia, a condition that causes hair to fall out in small patches. Fortunately, this symptom can be corrected through proper Lyme treatment.
To view a more extensive list of symptoms, read our article, Everything to Know About Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment.
Spotting the symptoms of Lyme disease and receiving a proper diagnosis is often an uphill battle that can take years. Patients treated at Holtorf Medical Group have seen an average of 7.2 different physicians prior to their visit to our center, without experiencing significant improvement.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to uncover the root cause of your symptoms and treat the source. If you are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease or if you have been previously diagnosed, but aren’t getting the treatment you need, call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!