One Arizona news source recently published an article about the “debate” over chronic Lyme disease. Unfortunately there isn’t much evidence to indicate there is such a thing as chronic Lyme disease let alone a debate over it.
Lyme disease is the most common tick borne illness in North America and Europe, according to the Mayo Clinic website. “Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks, which feed on the blood of animals and humans, can harbor the bacteria and spread it when feeding. You’re more likely to get Lyme disease if you live or spend time in grassy and heavily wooded areas where ticks carrying the disease thrive.” Its symptoms are listed as:
- Rash. A few days to a month before you have other symptoms, a small, red bump may appear at the site of the tick bite. Over the next few days, the redness expands, forming a rash in a bull’s-eye pattern, with a red outer ring surrounding a clear area. The rash, called erythema migrans, is one of the hallmarks of Lyme disease. Some people develop several of these rashes, an indication of bacteria multiplying in the blood stream.
- Flu-like symptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany the rash.
- Migratory joint pain. If the infection is not treated, you may develop bouts of severe joint pain and swelling several weeks to months after you’re infected. Your knees are especially likely to be affected, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.
- Neurological problems. In some cases, inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell’s palsy), numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement may occur weeks, months or even years after an untreated infection.
- Less common signs and symptoms. Some people may experience heart problems — such as an irregular heartbeat — several weeks after infection, but this rarely lasts more than a few days or weeks. Eye inflammation, hepatitis and severe fatigue are possible as well.
It is not uncommon for the most immediate and telling symptom, the rash, to go unnoticed and for Lyme disease to then remain undiagnosed. When this happens the patient may not be treated for Lyme disease until other symptoms, like joint pain or neurological problems, indicate to their physician that a diagnostic test is warranted. According to the New England Journal of Medicine this type of diagnosis is known as late Lyme disease.
As for chronic Lyme disease the journal states: “The diagnosis is often based solely on clinical judgment rather than on well-defined clinical criteria and validated laboratory studies, and it is often made regardless of whether patients have been in areas where Lyme disease is endemic. Although proponents of the chronic Lyme disease diagnosis believe that patients are persistently infected with B. burgdorferi, they do not require objective clinical or laboratory evidence of infection as a diagnostic criterion.”
The paper concluded: “Chronic Lyme disease is the latest in a series of syndromes that have been postulated in an attempt to attribute medically unexplained symptoms to particular infections. Other examples that have now lost credibility are ‘chronic candida syndrome’ and ‘chronic Epstein–Barr virus infection.’ The assumption that chronic, subjective symptoms are caused by persistent infection with B. burgdorferi is not supported by carefully conducted laboratory studies or by controlled treatment trials. Chronic Lyme disease, which is equated with chronic B. burgdorferi infection, is a misnomer, and the use of prolonged, dangerous, and expensive antibiotic treatments for it is not warranted.”