Lyme Disease Symptoms
SYMPTOMS OF TICK BORNE ILLNESS
Q: Will every patient who has Lyme disease see a bull’s eye rash?
A: Lyme disease presents as a bull's eye rash in less than 50% of patients. That means that in more than half of the cases, there is no obvious rash, and the symptoms can be mild and can look like so many other illnesses. This makes the diagnosis of lyme disease very difficult.
Q: Is lyme disease associated with other illnesses?
A: Lyme disease is often associated with other tick born infections, also known as co-infections. More importantly, many of these other infections can be found without lyme so it is critical for all infections to be tested through a blood test in patients with a high level of suspicion for tick exposure.
Lyme disease and other tick born infections can affect every single organ system in the body. Lyme disease can also look like so many other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and fibromyalgia. It is known as the "great imitator" for a reason.
Q: How does nutrition play a role in Lyme?
A: Nutrition is key! Eating a low sugar/low carbohydrate diet with plenty of protein and good fats is the best diet overall. Too much sugar in the diet can lower the immune system so it is harder to fight Lyme. Sugar also actually feeds the bacteria that cause lyme disease so by avoiding sugar and carbs, you are essentially starving the bugs. Often, Lyme causes patients to become sensitive to certain foods, such as gluten. A gluten free diet that is also low in carbohydrates is what I recommend to my patients.
Q: What are the most common symptoms you see in patients with lyme disease?
A: The three most common Lyme disease symptoms I see are headaches, joint pain, and depression/anxiety. Other symptoms of Lyme disease that occur quite frequently are numbness and tingling in hands and feet, trouble concentrating and memory loss, nausea and abdominal pain, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.
Q: Can Lyme disease interfere with other sicknesses?
A: Having Lyme disease can lower the immune system so that it is harder to fight off other infections. Lyme also tends to make other problems worse. For instance, if someone hurt their knee in the past, lyme disease can attack that knee and cause more damage. The bacteria that causes Lyme tends to be attracted to areas of the body that are more vulnerable.
Q: What does the future of Lyme look like?
A: The future is brighter than ever in many ways: Lyme disease awareness is increasing rapidly, which means that more and more people are on the lookout for it so, hopefully, more people will be diagnosed at earlier stages of the infection. There are major efforts all over the country and the world to do more research to understand the disease and how to diagnose it and to find better treatment options. Unfortunately, the bad news is that 2017 is predicted to be the worst year for ticks to date. That means the possibility for more cases of lyme disease this year than ever before is very high. All the research that is being done will not be ready in time to help those who will be infected this year.
Q: What should I use to prevent tick bites? Can I use natural products with essential oils or should I use DEET?
A: Unfortunately, the natural products do not seem to be effective enough especially in tick endemic areas of the country, such as the Hudson Valley. DEET can be toxic, especially to young children, but does have long-term data in its effectiveness in repelling ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects. Picaridin, which is another insect repellent readily available in stores, seems to be safer, lasts longer and seems to be a good alternative to DEET and is the one that I recommend to my patients and their families.
Q: Alec Baldwin recently opened up about having lyme disease. Do many public figures have lyme?
A: Alec Baldwin isn’t the only celeb opening up about lyme disease. Actor Ben Stiller, Author Amy Tan, and former President George W. Bush, have all had lyme disease. That is why it is so important to be vigilant in preventing tick bites by using insect repellent on clothing and skin and in doing regular tick checks every night after coming indoors. And it is not only the ticks that we have to be concerned about because many other insects also carry infections, like Bartonella, that can cause lyme-like symptoms. So be on alert and protect yourself from other insects like biting flies, lice, fleas and even spiders.
Q: How long does a tick need to be attached for lyme to occur?
A: There is a big misconception regarding how long a tick needs to be attached before lyme can be transmitted. The CDC reports that the deer tick needs to be attached for 36-48 hours for the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes lyme to be transmitted into the person. But studies indicate it can occur in as little as 24 hours and other infections, such as the newly recognized Powassan virus, can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes. Because of the variable transmission rates between different infections, it is important to stay vigilant with preventive techniques against tick bites.
Q: Is there a link between bartonella and diabetes?
A: Yes, absolutely! Bartonella can disrupt the metabolism and increase insulin resistance leading to an increased risk for diabetes. Many patients with bartonella gain weight as well because it pushes leptin levels up.
Q: What are the most common ways people acquire ticks?
A: Ticks can be acquired in many different locations and from animals. Ticks like to live where it is moist and warm. For example, ticks like tall grass or bushes, beach grass, leaf piles and woodpiles, forests, woodsy areas and places with low groundcover, like lawns planted with pachysandra. People who enter those areas are at high-risk for tick exposure. In addition, pets that enter those areas can acquire the ticks, which can fall off them and onto their owner’s beds, couches, and rugs and then ultimately onto the owner.
Q: What kind of symptoms and health problems can a tick bite cause?
A: Tick bites can potentially cause significant health issues depending on the tick and the infections that the tick transmits. The bite of the lone star tick, for example, can transmit a sugar molecule known as alpha-gal, which in some people can trigger an immune reaction that develops into an allergy to red meat. Other ticks, such as the deer tick, can transmit bacteria, viruses and parasites either individually or in combination and these can make people very ill or even lead to death. A tick that contains the Powassan virus can transmit it to the person it bites within 15 minutes. The Powassan virus can lead to encephalitis and potentially death. Other tick-borne infections, like Lyme disease, Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Tularemia can cause a myriad of serious symptoms and complications. Infections of the heart, the brain, the liver, the gastrointestinal tract, the joints and just about every organ of the body can be affected. Fatigue, poor sleep, body aches, joint pain, brain fog, anxiety, skin rashes, palpitations, shortness of breath, night sweats and fevers are some symptoms that patients may experience. Patients are often quite debilitated and if not treated in time, can go on to develop chronic problems for the rest of their lives.