Why Lyme Disease Symptoms Linger After Treatment

Why Lyme Disease Symptoms Linger After Treatment

Why Lyme Disease Symptoms Linger After Treatment

Tick Bites: A Year-Round Problem
With warmer winters, tick bites have become a year-round issue. Did you know that even towns in Canada are now dealing with tick-borne diseases where it was never seen before? Ticks can transmit multiple diseases, including various strains of Lyme disease, other bacteria, parasites, viruses, and even allergies to mammalian meat. As Lyme disease pioneer Dr. Joseph Burrascano, MD, said, being bitten by a tick is like “stepping on a dirty needle.”

Sanchez-Vicente S, Tagliafierro T, Coleman JL, Benach JL, Tokarz R. Polymicrobial Nature of Tick-Borne Diseases. mBio. 2019 Sep 10;10(5):e02055-19

Increased Tick Exposure During COVID
The effects of warmer winters have led to more tick exposures. This situation was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people fled urban areas for the suburbs and participated in more outdoor activities, increasing their risk of tick bites.

Where Ticks Are Found
Ticks are commonly found in wooded and grassy areas. They latch onto humans and animals, feeding on their blood and transmitting infections. Transmission can occur in minutes, such as with Powassan Virus and Alpha-Gal, or take hours, like with Lyme disease. Mice, birds, and chipmunks help move ticks around. As birds migrate along the East Coast, some rest in Central Park in NYC, bringing ticks and Lyme disease into Manhattan. Consider removing birdbaths and bird feeders, which attract mice and birds, and instead invest in owl boxes, which attract natural mice predators.

Early Signs of Lyme Disease
The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary widely, making it difficult to diagnose. Early signs may include a distinctive bull's-eye rash, fever, chills, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. However, if left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to severe complications affecting the joints, heart, and nervous system.

Persistent Symptoms: Why They Occur
Tick-borne diseases caught early can be effectively treated. However, many people never see the tick that bit them, and the telltale rash can be hidden. Here are some reasons why symptoms may persist even after treatment:

1. Delay in Treatment: A delay in addressing the disease can make it harder to treat successfully. If you have a tick bite, save the tick for identification. Consider prophylactic antibiotics for deer tick bites and stay vigilant for symptoms resembling a summer flu.

2. Multiple Strains of Lyme: A single tick can transmit more than one type of Lyme disease, and an initial course of antibiotics may not cover all strains. The germ causing Lyme, Borrelia burgdorferi, has over 1,500 gene sequences, making it highly adaptable.

3. Incomplete Treatment: Some cases require longer treatment than the standard 10 or 14 days. Neurological Lyme may need 30 days, and Babesia may require six or more weeks of therapy.

4. Coinfections: Ticks can transmit other pathogens, leading to coinfections that complicate treatment. For example, Babesiosis attacks red blood cells, while Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis target white blood cells. Different infections may require different treatments.

5. Stealth Pathology: Borrelia burgdorferi can evade the immune response, forming cysts, biofilms, L-forms, and round bodies that resist treatment and survive in unfavorable conditions.

6. Endosymbionts: This phenomenon, known from Biology 101, involves germs within germs. Patients successfully treated for a coinfection may experience a return of symptoms months or years later.

7. Autoimmunity: After tick-borne disease, the immune system may start to attack healthy tissue, leading to autoimmune conditions.

8. Misdiagnosis: Other conditions, such as thyroid issues or long-haul COVID, can mimic Lyme disease. Ensure other potential causes are ruled out if symptoms persist.

9. New Tick Bites: After treatment, a new tick bite can cause reinfection.

Tick bites can be dangerous and transmit multiple pathogens. Be vigilant as you enjoy the outdoors. If you develop symptoms, seek medical attention quickly. Persistent symptoms may not be "all in your head"—use the information here to find answers and get the help you need.

Stay Safe and Enjoy Nature Responsibly!

For more information and to consult with our practitioners, contact us at the Morrison Center. Stay informed and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones from tick-borne diseases.