Frequently Asked Questions
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a multi-system illness caused by a spirochete bacterium. The bacteria can be contracted from a tick bite, which is its most well-known form of transmission, but it can also be transmitted from fleas, mosquitoes, blood transfusions, trans-placental to fetus, breast feeding, unpasteurized milk and sexual contact. Worldwide, Lyme disease is recognized as endemic - including in all of North America. The diagnosis of Lyme disease can be difficult; while testing is available in Canada, unfortunately it is not sensitive enough to always provide an accurate result, or overcome the challenges that the Lyme bacteria can present.
What is a Lyme rash?
Lyme disease is often referred to as "the great imitator" as it can mimic many other diseases, making it difficult to diagnose. A Lyme rash, also known as Erythema migrans, is a circular red rash that can appear at the site of a tick bite. It is considered a characteristic symptom of early stage Lyme disease, although it is important to note that most patients won't develop a rash. If you suspect you have been bitten by a tick or have any symptoms of Lyme disease, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What are Lyme disease co-infections?
Ticks often carry more than one infection, and these are called co-infections. They can include, but aren't limited to:
- Mycoplasma fermentans (and other species)
- Powassan virus
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
These co-infections can have similar symptoms to Lyme disease, which can make getting a diagnosis and treatment more difficult. It's important to be tested for co-infections if you suspect you have been infected with Lyme disease.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
It is important to note that not all individuals with Lyme disease experience all of these symptoms; some may only have a few. It is also important to mention that many of these symptoms can mimic other illnesses, which is why early diagnosis and treatment is crucial. Additionally, many of these symptoms may not appear until weeks, or even months, after a tick bite. Some commonly reported symptoms are flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and neurological issues. Some of the symptoms can be caused by co-infections that come along with Lyme disease, and these symptoms may vary according to geographic location and what the tick is specifically carrying.
Is there Lyme disease in Alberta/Canada?
The Alberta Health Services (AHS) website states that the risk of contracting Lyme disease in Alberta is considered low, but it is still present and cases have been reported. It is important to note that Lyme is considered to be under-reported due to the political perspective of the infection. It is important for residents and visitors to Alberta to take precautions when spending time outdoors, such as using insect repellent and regularly checking for ticks on the body.
Why doesn't my doctor want to talk about Lyme disease?
This can be attributed to the lack of understanding and education about Lyme disease within the medical community, as well as the complexity of the disease and its symptoms. Many doctors may also be hesitant to diagnose Lyme disease due to the lack of reliable testing methods and the potential for misdiagnosis. Additionally, there is a lack of consensus on the best treatment methods for Lyme disease, which causes confusion and hesitancy among doctors. It is important for patients to seek out doctors who are open-minded and willing to explore the possibility of Lyme disease, and to consult with specialists who have experience in treating the disease.
Why doesn't my doctor believe I have Lyme disease?
It can be frustrating and difficult to deal with doctors who do not believe in the reality of Lyme disease. Unfortunately, it is a complex and controversial illness, and not all doctors are familiar with the latest research and understanding of the disease. It is important to seek out a doctor who is willing to listen and work with you to find the best course of treatment for your individual case.
Why is there so much misinformation about Lyme disease?
This resistance is due to a lack of understanding and education about the disease, as well as a lack of accurate diagnostic testing. Many doctors rely on outdated testing methods that have been proven to be unreliable, leading to false negative results. Additionally, there is a lack of consensus among healthcare professionals about the best way to diagnose and treat Lyme disease, leading to conflicting information and confusion. This has led to a proliferation of misinformation about the disease, making it difficult for patients to get accurate and timely treatment.
Is it possible to have Lyme disease if I don't remember getting a tick bite?
Many people may not notice the tick bite, or may not develop symptoms for several weeks or even months afterwards. It's important to be aware of the symptoms (flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and neurological symptoms, etc.) which can indicate the presence of Lyme disease, even if a tick bite is not remembered or noticed.
Where is Lyme disease most common?
While the disease is present worldwide, it is more commonly found in certain areas such as wooded and grassy regions, particularly in the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and North-central United States, and in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia in Canada. The disease is also more common in areas where the population of white-tailed deer and small mammals, such as the white-footed mouse, are high as they act as reserviors for the bacteria.
How do you test for Lyme disease?
Testing for Lyme disease can be complex, as there are many different strains of the bacteria that cause the disease, and some tests may not detect all of them. Additionally, the co-infections that can be contracted with Lyme disease may have similar symptoms, which can make diagnosis difficult.
At Ananta Health, we do an initial screening for Lyme disease and its co-infections with the BioScan SRT testing. If needed, further testing is done through IGeneX in California, where they run blood tests to confirm the presence of Lyme and/or its co-infections.
Is it possible to get a false positive/negative on a Lyme disease test?
Some tests may have limitations in their accuracy, particularly in the early stages of infection when the body may not have had enough time to produce enough antibodies to be detected. Some tests may also be unable to detect certain strains of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Therefore, a negative test result does not necessarily rule out the possibility of infection and it is important to consider other factors such as symptoms, exposure to ticks, and medical history.
My doctor says any test for Lyme disease outside of Canada is a scam - is that true?
No, this statement is not true. It stems from a lack of understanding and recognition of Lyme disease within the Canadian healthcare system. In fact, it has been acknowledged that the Canadian Lyme test is often inaccurate and produces false negatives. External labs in other countries have stricter regulations and protocols in place to ensure accurate results. Furthermore, these labs do not have any conflicts of interest, making them a reliable and unbiased source for Lyme disease testing, which is why we choose to work with them.
Is Lyme disease a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
While some studies have found the presence of the Lyme bacteria in certain bodily fluids, it is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by most experts in the medical community. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential for transmission through other means other than a tick bite.
Can I give Lyme disease to my baby?
Yes, it is possible to transmit Lyme disease to your baby. Pregnant women with Lyme disease can pass the infection to their fetus through the placenta. It is also possible to transmit the infection through breastmilk. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and have been exposed to Lyme disease, it is important to consult with a doctor and receive proper treatment to prevent transmission to your baby.
What happens if Lyme disease goes untreated?
It is important to seek treatment as soon as possible if you suspect you have Lyme disease. The earlier that treatment is administered, the better chance there is of making a full recovery. Long-term untreated Lyme disease can cause serious health issues, such as neurological disorders and chronic fatigue, and can deeply affect the mental and emotional well-being of an individual. If left untreated, it can cause depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms. To avoid complications and ensure optimal recovery, it is essential to seek treatment and get a proper diagnosis as soon as possible once a suspicion of having it arises.
Can Lyme disease clear up on its own?
No. Even with proper treatment, some individuals may continue to experience symptoms for the majority of their lives. However, treatment can help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms and improve overall quality of life.
If Lyme disease is incurable, why should I treat it?
Even if the infection cannot be fully cured, it is important to treat it in order to improve the patient's quality of life and prevent serious health issues from arising. Undergoing treatment can help to prevent further damage to the body, such as long-term neurological or cardiovascular complications. Additionally, treating Lyme disease can also help lower the risk of spreading the infection to others.
How bad can Lyme disease get?
If left untreated or misdiagnosed, it can lead to chronic conditions such as arthritis, neurological disorders, cognitive impairment, heart problems and other serious health issues. It is vital that individuals take any symptoms or potential exposure to ticks seriously and seek proper medical attention as soon as possible.
Does Lyme disease stay in your body forever?
Not all experts agree on this point, and further research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of Lyme disease. However, it is generally acknowledged that untreated or inadequately treated Lyme disease can lead to chronic and debilitating symptoms that may not fully resolve - even with treatment. It is important for individuals with suspected or confirmed Lyme disease to work closely with a qualified healthcare provider who can closely monitor their symptoms and develop an individualized treatment plan.
How serious is Lyme disease?
Left untreated, Lyme disease can cause a wide range of symptoms that can affect multiple systems in the body, including the nervous system, muscular system, and cardiovascular system. Some of the most serious complications of Lyme disease include chronic joint inflammation, neurological problems such as Bell's palsy and meningitis, and heart problems. In rare cases, untreated Lyme disease can also lead to death.
What other illnesses have been linked to Lyme disease?
Lyme disease has been linked to a wide range of illnesses, including but not limited to:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson's disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren's syndrome
- Raynaud's disease
- Crohn's disease
- Interstitial cystitis
- Meniere's disease
It is important to note that a link between Lyme disease and these illnesses does not necessarily mean that one causes the other, but rather that they may share underlying mechanisms or be caused by similar factors.
Can an MRI detect Lyme disease?
It is important to note that an MRI is not a specific test for Lyme disease, and a positive MRI does not confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease. The diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on clinical symptoms and a combination of laboratory tests. An MRI may be useful as it can help rule out other potential causes of symptoms and monitor the progression of neurological symptoms in patients with Lyme disease.
Can a lumber puncture detect Lyme disease?
A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, is not a recommended method for diagnosing Lyme disease, as it is not considered a reliable or specific test for Lyme disease or its co-infections. It should only be used in cases where there is a high suspicion of neurological involvement and other test results are inconclusive.
What is Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS)?
Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) is a controversial diagnosis and its existence is not universally accepted by the medical community. Some experts argue that PTLDS is simply a continuation of active Lyme disease, and that longer and more aggressive treatment is necessary to fully eradicate the infection. Others argue that PTLDS is a separate condition caused by lingering inflammation or immune dysfunction caused by the initial infection. Either way, more research is needed in order to determine a conclusive definition.
What parts of the body are affected by Lyme disease?
It is important to note that everyone's experience of Lyme disease is different, and not all patients will have symptoms in all areas of the body. Some (but not all) areas that can be affected are the:
- Nervous system: Lyme can cause neurological symptoms such as meningitis, headaches, facial palsy, and cognitive decline.
- Musculoskeletal system: Lyme can cause joint pain, arthritis, and muscle weakness.
- Cardiovascular system: Lyme can cause heart palpitations, heart block, and even heart failure.
- Gastrointestinal system: Lyme can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
- Respiratory system: Lyme can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing.
It is important to note that everyone's experience of Lyme disease is different, and not all patients will have symptoms in all areas.
How long can you have Lyme disease without knowing?
Since symptoms of Lyme disease can be different for everyone, be misdiagnosed as, or mimic other illnesses, many may not realize they have Lyme disease for a very long time. This is why it's important to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical attention if you suspect you may have been exposed to the bacteria.
Can you get re-infected with Lyme disease?
Even after treatment, Lyme bacteria can persist in the body, making it possible for reinfection to occur. This is why it is important to take preventive measures to avoid tick bites, and to continue to be vigilant about symptoms even after initial treatment for Lyme disease. Furthermore, it is crucial to get a proper diagnosis and treatment if you suspect a new infection, as reinfection can cause more severe symptoms and complications.
I'm not as sick as someone else I know with Lyme disease, should I get tested/do treatment anyway?
Lyme disease can manifest differently for everyone, and early detection and treatment can prevent the disease from progressing and causing more severe symptoms. Even if your symptoms are mild, it is important to address the infection to prevent it from becoming chronic and causing long-term health issues.