Originally Posted April 2015
Updated May 2019
Due to the numerous misconceptions surrounding Lyme disease, it can be difficult to know what is true and what is not. The misconceptions and falsehoods surrounding this disease range from its prevalence to its diagnosis and treatment.
In order to better understand the truth about Lyme disease, it’s important first to have an understanding of what exactly the disease is.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the spirochete (spiral-shaped bacteria) Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick; however, some recent studies have shown that it may also be transmitted by mosquitoes. The carriers of the bacteria are the deer ticks, also known as the black-legged tick and the western black-legged ticks.
The disease affects multiple areas of the body and is known as “The Great Imitator” because it mimics various other diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, depression, and more which often leads to a misdiagnosis. Symptoms of Lyme disease include,
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Neck stiffness
- Joint/tendon pain
- Muscle aches
- Skin rash around the tick bite
- Nerve problems (in advanced state)
- Arthritis (in advanced state)
- Tingling/numbness (in advanced state)
- Facial paralysis (in advanced state)
Myth 1: Lyme Disease Doesn’t Exist on the West Coast
A common misconception among many individuals, including health care professionals, is that Lyme disease is only on the east coast of the United States. Actually, Lyme disease has been found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. This means that it is possible to get Lyme disease even in a big west coast city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and others.
One of the ticks that can transmit the bacteria is the western black-legged tick (not all ticks are infected). These ticks are extremely prevalent in California and along the west coast, even reaching into parts of Canada. They tend to feed during the late winter and continue in to summer. This means that the young will feed during the spring and summer (right when we are out there doing our hot weather activities).
Myth 2: No Rash Means No Lyme
It is true that the well-know “bulls-eye” rash is an indication of Lyme disease, but not every person gets the rash. This rash may only appear in about half of the cases. Also, it’s one of those instances of “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.” Sometimes the rash can be in an obscure place and out of view, like the scalp for example. It may even show up somewhere other than where the tick was attached. So even if you don’t see the bulls-eye, you should still consider Lyme if you are experiencing the above listed symptoms. Also, just because you don’t remember being bitten doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Fewer than 50% of Lyme patients remember being bitten or seeing a rash.
Myth 3: Two Weeks of Treatment and You’re All Better
Many people believe that after a quick round of antibiotics they are cured and will live symptom-free lives. Avril Lavigne, who recently discovered she has Lyme, has fallen into this trap. She stated that she was originally misdiagnosed with dehydration and exhaustion. Avril informed her fans last year that she wasn’t feeling well and has recently explained that she has been bed ridden and felt very lethargic for a while. She explained that she was diagnosed with Lyme and is feeling a lot better. However, it is common to feel better after a round of antibiotics, but that doesn’t mean you are cured. Treatment for the condition can be challenging because the bacteria can change forms making it resistant to standard treatment.
In addition, Lyme disease is rarely seen by itself. It usually has various co-infections such as Babesia, ehrlichiosis, chlamydia pneumonia, mycoplasma pneumonia, and candida. As if these weren’t bad enough, Lyme also lowers the immune system leaving the body susceptible to other viruses such as Epstein Barr, HHV-6, and more. The best course of action for treating this disease is a multi-system approach which includes antibiotics to attack the Lyme bacteria at all stages, immune modulators, and other medications to increase the effectiveness of the antibiotics. Thankfully proper treatment isn’t just available on the east coast. There are a few Lyme doctors (LLMDs) throughout the west coast, in major cities like Los Angeles that can address these concerns. Unfortunately, there is no available test to conclude that the disease has been cured after treatment.
Getting the Facts on Lyme Disease
Unfortunately, Lyme disease is perhaps one of the most under-diagnosed and misunderstood diseases in the United States. Poor recognition and awareness of this disease is in part due to a widespread lack of understanding and familiarity with Lyme.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to uncover and address Lyme disease. They have all earned the title of LLMD. If you are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease or if you’ve been diagnosed with Lyme, but aren’t getting the treatment you need, call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!
1. ILADS. ” International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.” https://www.ilads.org/
2. LDA. “Lyme Disease Association, Inc.” https://lymediseaseassociation.org/
3. Joseph J. Burrascano Jr., M.D. “Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease. Diagnostic Hints and Treatment Guidlines for Lyme and Other Tick Borne Illnesses.” http://www.lymenet.org/BurrGuide200810.pdf
4. GLA. “Global Lyme Alliance.” https://globallymealliance.org/