Tick bites are obnoxious. They itch, burn, and look awful. Those are the short-term effects.
A tick bite could change your life. How? If the tick is carrying a disease, you may have health problems for the rest of your life.
Ticks carry many different diseases. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States. The CDC estimates that approximately 476,000 new cases appear in the United States every year.
Some people that get Lyme disease did not know that a tick had bit them. If this happens, people might not seek treatment or could even be misdiagnosed.
Receiving appropriate treatment is key for limiting the progression of Lyme disease. If Lyme is not treated, severe health problems could happen including:
· Neurologic Lyme disease
· Lyme carditis
· Lyme arthritis
In most cases, a 2–4-week regimen of antibiotics cures Lyme disease. Receiving treatment shortly after infection will allow you to have the best outcome.
Failure of treatment or untreated Lyme disease causes Chronic Lyme Disease. Learning to live with it is challenging.
In this blog, we will discuss the symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease and how you can take control of your life with Lyme.
Living with Chronic Lyme Disease
Scientists estimated that in 2020, 2 million people in the United States lived with Chronic Lyme Disease, according to a recent study.
What is more alarming is that children aged 5-9 are at the highest risk of getting Lyme disease. This means that the children that get Lyme disease could struggle with life-long symptoms that restrict their quality of life.
Chronic Lyme Disease symptoms include:
· Chronic fatigue
· Muscle and joint pain
· Poor sleep
· Frequent Headaches
· Memory impairment
· Vision impairment
· Heart problems
· And more
Chronic Lyme Disease affects everyone differently. Some people may have mild symptoms and be able to perform their day-to-day tasks with minor difficulties. Others may have debilitating symptoms that prevent them from performing any tasks whatsoever.
The unpredictability of this disease can prevent you from living your life to the fullest.
Symptoms can flare up at random times and to extreme levels. If a flare up occurs, it could disrupt your entire day.
Several clinical trials assessed different treatments for Chronic Lyme Disease. Yet, the results have not been promising.
One review discussed a theory that long, IV antibiotics treatment could treat Chronic Lyme Disease. This treatment was studied because Lyme disease is typically treated with oral antibiotics for 2-4 weeks. The theory was that longer, more intense antibiotic treatment would cure Chronic Lyme Disease.
However, this was not the case. In one study patients with Chronic Lyme Disease received 28 days of intravenous antibiotic care. There were minor improvements in patients with severe fatigue. Unfortunately, there were no improvements in cognitive function or lab measures of the infection.
More importantly, the extended antibiotic treatment increased the risk for severe side effects. In that study, four of the patients were hospitalized because of treatment complications.
However, there may still be hope for a treatment. In 2020, a study from Stanford University reported that Azlocillin, an FDA approved antibiotic, eliminated Lyme bacteria and had minimal side effects in mouse models. Azlocillin even killed the strains of Lyme bacteria that resisted current medical treatments.
Physicians hope that a clinical trial can start soon. Yet, for now, patients with Chronic Lyme Disease can only manage their symptoms.
Managing Chronic Lyme Disease is hard. Thankfully, scientists and physicians found methods that can ease the symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease.
Step into Your Power: Take Control of Your Life with Lyme
You have the power to control your life with Lyme. Researchers have found specific lifestyle modifications and dietary choices that reduce Lyme disease symptoms.
A key to improving your life with Lyme is to keep your immune system healthy. A 2020 research study found that Lyme bacteria can weaken your immune system. A weak immune system can lead to frequent sickness, chronic aching, and an inability to clear factors that cause inflammation.
Fortunately, there are ways you can support your immune system at home to ease Chronic Lyme Disease symptoms.
The primary ways to support your immune system at home are to:
· Transition away from inflammatory foods like fatty processed meats, cheese, and refined sugars
· Eat more anti-inflammatory and nutrient rich foods
· Perform appropriate exercise
· Practice stress management
Consuming foods that are anti-inflammatory are key to strengthening your immune system. A 2021 article found that inflammation can lead to increases in Lyme symptoms and even cause Lyme arthritis. Another 2020 article found that anti-inflammatory and nutrient-rich diets strengthen your immune system.
The diet that contains these foods is the Mediterranean diet. So, you should eat:
· A variety of fruits and vegetables to get essential vitamins
· Whole grains for fiber
· Nuts, olive oil, and fish for healthy fats
· Legumes and fish for good protein
· Incredibly low or no amount of dairy and red meat
Exercise is another key to supporting your immune system and ease your symptoms.
A 2015 article found that light resistance exercise helps patients with Chronic Lyme Disease feel healthy and full of energy. The Mayo Clinic recommends that low-impact exercise, like walking or light yoga, can protect your joints and reduce pain.
Exercise is also known to reverse inflammation and reduce stress.
Stress management is another key to the puzzle. Being able to manage your stress can reduce the level of stress hormones that increase inflammation. You can manage your stress by:
· Practicing meditation
· Performing slow breathing exercises
· Finding mental health support through your doctor
In summary, life with Lyme can be frustrating and difficult, but you have the power to take control!
Eating healthy, exercising, and managing your stress allow your immune system to stay strong and help you to feel energized. Doing this will help you limit the negative side effects of Chronic Lyme Disease.
Daniel Chantigian, MS, is exploring Lyme Disease. This blog is the third part of a three-part series.
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