Lyme Education & and Resources
Part 2: Symptoms to Consider
Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick. Diagnosis can be challenging because a tick may or may not be found on the body and skin irritation or a rash may develop or not; each person’s situation is different. This second installment in a three-part series from Natural Awakenings South Central and Lancaster-Berks, Pennsylvania, magazines provides information about symptoms to consider when putting the pieces of the Lyme disease puzzle together.
Dr. Robert Mauss, owner of Gettysburg Osteopathic Family Health Center, in Gettysburg, says, “Factors to consider when working to establish a clinical diagnosis are the patient’s exposure to ticks in an area where Lyme disease is known to exist, and whether the patient is having symptoms or signs consistent with Lyme disease.
“Testing for Lyme in the first couple weeks after a bite may not be useful,” suggests Mauss, “because the bacteria are masters at manipulating the immune system. Studies show it can suppress the immune system’s ability to make antibodies. Since the test looks for antibodies, it is especially poor in diagnosing Lyme disease during this period.”
Dr. Ross Marchegiani, of Turnpaugh Health and Wellness Centers, in Manheim and Mechanicsburg, says, “It is common training that when an Erythema migrans rash is present, a medical provider will often run a standard two-tier test, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western Blot test for Lyme disease. If a patient’s practitioner does not run this test, this should be their first immediate suggestion, due to the easy accessibility and scope of the practitioner.
“With that being said, it is possible for the two-tier testing to come back positive for Lyme disease, but the test is highly reported with many false negatives, and coinfections are almost never tested. If someone is suspicious of Lyme disease or coinfections, I would suggest skipping the standard testing and going right to a special laboratory that specializes in Lyme and Lyme coinfection testing.”
Both Marchegiani and Mauss suggest Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, LLC (MDL) and IGeneX, Inc. for specialized Lyme disease testing.
According to Tina Prins, director of public relations and marketing and vice president of the nonprofit PA Lyme Resource Network, “It can take four to six weeks after a bite for the body to produce measurable levels of antibodies. Under Act 83 of Pennsylvania, health care professionals are required to advise patients that testing may lead to false negatives, as well as inform patients about the ‘broad spectrum of scientific and treatment options regarding all stages of Lyme disease and related tick-borne illnesses to enable patients to make an informed choice as part of informed consent and to respect the autonomy of that choice.’” (Health.PA.Gov)
Symptoms include fatigue; fevers/chills/sweats; joint pain and swelling; neck, back, nerve, chest pain; palpitations; numbness/tingling; brain fog; memory impairment; depression; anxiety; dizziness; insomnia; ear ringing; Bell's Palsy (facial nerve dysfunction that causes drooping); heavy menstrual periods; temporomandibular joint pain; headaches; poor stamina; gastrointestinal symptoms; muscle pain or weakness; and blurry vision.
“Coinfections can have other symptoms, too” reports Mauss. “Bartonella has brain fog, forgetfulness, attention and word-finding problems, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, striae rashes, pain on the soles of the feet, swollen lymph nodes, painful, swollen skin nodules and fullness in the throat or trouble swallowing. Babesia commonly has shortness of breath, frequent sighing or air hunger, night sweats and dreaming. Mycoplasma can have a low grade chronic irritative cough that lasts for weeks before getting better.”
Prins, Mauss and Marchegiani agree that Lyme disease is called “the great imitator” for good reason. Misdiagnoses can occur because its symptoms often mimic those of many other diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, dementia, attention-deficit disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s, mental illness, chronic fatigue syndrome and more.
PA Lyme Resource Network, PALyme.org (regional support groups offer monthly educational meetings); the National Capital Lyme Disease Association, NatCapLyme.org; Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Columbia-Lyme.org; International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, ILADS.org; Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, MDL.com; IGeneX, Inc., IGeneX.com.
Dr. Robert Mauss, Gettysburg Osteopathic Family Health Center, 28 Apple Ave., Gettysburg, 717-334-2233, GettysburgOsteopath.com.
Dr. Ross Marchegiani, Mechanicsburg office: 717-795-9566, Manheim Office: 717-879-9899, DrRoss@TurnpaughHWC.com, TurnpaughHWC.com.