Even medical societies disagree on the proper diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, so it is easy to understand why there are no set answers on how to diagnose and treat the symptoms that present as Chronic Lyme Disease.
Controversy that extends to the science surrounding Lyme disease as well as to the public policy about it leaves patients and doctors somewhat in the dark as to the proper treatment for this complex disease and the occasionally resultant Chronic Lyme Disease.
Two very different theories about Chronic Lyme Disease from medical societies
IDSA, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, feels that Lyme Disease is difficult to catch and can be easily cured using short-term antibiotic therapy. IDSA also feels that Chronic Lyme Disease does not exist. ILADS (the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society), another reputable medical society, acknowledges the existence of Lyme disease, and offers guidelines for treating it.
What exactly is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew shaped bacterium known as a spirochete transferred to humans by blacklegged ticks that are infected with it. The ticks are so tiny that many people mistake them for moles or other skin imperfections. In fact, the nymph of the blacklegged tick is the size of a poppy seed. Infected ticks have ingested blood from infected mice.
Not all of the blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, are infected, so it is difficult to predict what the risk is from a tick bite in an area that has reported a Lyme disease outbreak. The bacterium infecting the ticks, Borrelia burgdorferi, or its cousin, Borrelia mayonii, enters the skin through a tick that bites and attaches itself to the skin for 36 to 48 hours. The bacteria, or spirochetes, make their way into the bloodstream where they can be responsible for vast array of symptoms.
Although experts feel the numbers may be higher since Lyme disease is so hard to diagnose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta estimate that approximately 300,000 people a year are diagnosed with it yearly.
What causes Chronic Lyme Disease?
The controversy surrounding Chronic Lyme Disease even extends to its’ name. The CDC emphatically insists that the syndrome be called PTLDS, Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, and they say no exact cause of PTLDS is yet known. They apply this designation to the following lingering Lyme disease symptoms: joint and muscle pain, fatigue, swollen joints, restless sleep, short-term memory and concentration problems, and speech problems. The symptoms generally appear six months following a person’s having Lyme disease or continue unresolved after Lyme disease.
Many doctors feel that patients who are initially diagnosed with Lyme disease actually have rheumatologic or neurologic diseases rather than Lyme disease, and that is the cause for lingering symptoms. Chronic Lyme Disease advocates, however, feel that the symptoms these doctors are seeing that mimic a host of rheumatic and neurological conditions are actually caused by unresolved Lyme disease, AKA Chronic Lyme Disease.
Regardless of the controversy, the life-altering symptoms suffered by persons with Chronic Lyme Disease, or PTLDS, are difficult for medical personnel to dismiss.
(Read more about Chronic Lyme Disease here.)