Lyme Disease FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Lyme Disease

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What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a tick-born illness, meaning it is usually contracted by a tick bite. Lyme Disease is caused by bacteria known as borrelia, and can cause an array of symptoms if left untreated. Chronic Lyme Disease can develop if the infection is left untreated, and is then difficult to treat.

What is a Lyme Rash?

Although traditionally a bull’s eye or target rash appeared at the site of a tick bite, indicating the presence of Lyme, this rash very rarely appears now. It is estimated that only 10% of infections start with a bull’s eye rash. If you have a Bull’s eye type rash, or any rash after a tick bite, it’s important to get treated right away. The absence of a rash after a tick bite does not mean the absence of an infection.

What are Lyme Disease Co-infections?

Ticks often carry more than one infection, and these are called Lyme disease co-infections. They can include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Babesia
  • Bartonella
  • Rickettsia
  • Ehrlicia
  • Mycoplasma
  • Powassan virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus

A combination of these can make a person’s symptoms vary greatly, and result in serious debilitating illness.

What are Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Symptoms can include bull’s eye rash (10% of cases), flu-like feeling, fatigue, chills and fever, arthritis, joint pain, and later develop into neurological conditions. Other symptoms can include weight loss or gain in excess of 20 lbs in a short period of time, presence of any rash, changes in skin texture, slow wound healing, feeling worse or better after antibiotic treatment, poor short term memory, dizziness, vertigo, chemical sensitivities, presence of a neurological disorder with or without a diagnosis, presence of a psychiatric disorder, facial paralysis or bell’s palsy, personality changes, anxiety, depression, irritability, rage, addictions, any of the following: paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia nervosa or obsessive compulsive disorder seizures brain lesions seen on a brain scan such as an MRI or CT of the head, ability to function at work has decreased, brain fog, difficulty with name recall, getting lost easily, inability to learn.

Is There Lyme Disease in Alberta/Canada?

Lyme Disease has been reported in all provinces and territories across Canada. Although not all ticks are infected, it is important to be aware of the risks when outside - even your own backyard. As of 2017 Janet Sperling at the University of Alberta, doing tick surveillance, advises that your chances of being bitten by an infected tick are 1 in 5.

Why Doesn’t My Doctor Want to Talk About Lyme Disease?

Those who suffer with Lyme Disease often have difficulty when they try to get answers for their illness, as many doctors and specialists are unwilling to answer or approach the subject. Lyme Disease is the only infectious illness that insurance companies, government agencies, and Medical Boards have questioned the diagnosis of even with the presence of positive lab results. 

Why Doesn't My Doctor Believe I Have Lyme Disease?

Unfortunately, it is common to hear a doctor say things like “I don’t believe in Lyme”, or “Your symptoms aren’t real.” These statements are not based in fact or science, but in opinion. Lyme is recognized as a disease by Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Lyme Spirochete bacteria has been observed, studied and tested, and Lyme Disease is indeed real. These comments, especially when they downplay a patient’s illness and symptoms, are called “Medical Gaslighting.” Medical gaslighting is when a healthcare provider dismisses a patient’s complaints or concerns, making them feel as though it’s not real. This is a form of emotional and psychological abuse. 

Why is There So Much Misinformation About Lyme Disease?

Bill C-442 passed in 2014 has brought recognition to Lyme Disease and is starting a wave of changes in Canada. This illness is getting more recognition as more information is becoming apparent, yet due to misinformation in the health care system, many people will go undiagnosed or ignored for years. Even though this bill was passed, instead of accepting Lyme Disease, the opposite seemed to happen and there is still a lot of resistance within the conventional medical field.

Is It Possible to Have Lyme Disease If I Don't Remember a Tick Bite?

Yes. Ticks release a numbing agent when they feed, so many people do not feel the bite. The nymph or baby ticks can also be the size of a poppy seed so it can be difficult to spot them even during a tick check after being outdoors. The classic target rash is estimated to only appear in 10% of cases, leaving many unaware they were even bitten.

Where is Lyme Disease Most Common?

It is considered that Lyme Disease is currently endemic worldwide, including across North America. Lyme Disease is prevalent in all areas of Canada. The effects of Climate Change have allowed ticks carrying Lyme Disease to travel further than they have before. Many people are reporting seeing ticks where they haven’t seen them in the past, as they are thriving on the warmer dryer weather. 

How Do You Test for Lyme Disease?

The most popular tests for Lyme Disease are an Elisa Test and the Wester Blot test. If a Canadian provincial test has been run, it should be noted that it is extremely inaccurate. Therefore, if it comes back negative and Lyme Disease is suspected, then it is important to continue searching for answers to properly rule the infection in or out. Ananta Health uses Armin Labs in Germany which does an Elispot test. This test is considered to be more accurate.

Is It Possible to Get a False Negative on a Lyme Disease Test?

Lyme Disease can attack and suppress the immune system, making testing for anti-bodies difficult. If Lyme Disease is suspected, and testing is negative, it may be recommended to treat for a period of time and then retest to see if the immune system is starting to respond. This can confirm if Lyme is indeed a factor in the patient’s illness. A negative test does not mean a lack of infection, nor does it confirm it.

My Doctor Says Any Test for Lyme Disease Outside of Canada is a Scam - Is That True?

No. This just stems from a lack of understanding within the Canadian Health Care system. In fact, it has been recognized that the Canadian Lyme Test is extremely inaccurate and produces false negatives. When speaking with your doctor, remember to tell them that an external lab in another country has strict regulations to give you accurate results, but they do not have any conflicts of interest (meaning they aren’t invested in or making money on your treatment), making them an extremely reliable source.

Is Lyme Disease an STI?

Lyme experts are divided about the possibility. There have been studies showing that the Lyme bacteria, which is related to syphilis, has been found in vaginal and seminal fluid. It has also been clinically observed that partners and entire families have tested positive for Lyme without a known history of a tick bite, although there is a consensus for more studies on this topic.

Can I Give Lyme Disease To My Baby?

Yes. The Lyme bacteria can cross the placental barrier to the fetus and has been found in breast milk.

What Happens if Lyme Disease Goes Untreated?

Lyme disease that goes untreated or doesn’t get diagnosed can be more difficult to treat as the infection causes more damage and illness in the body. Untreated cases can progress to serious health conditions, from arthritis and nerve pain to severe and debilitating conditions and autoimmune diseases and even death. 

Can Lyme Disease Clear Up On Its Own?

No, Lyme Disease will not clear up on its own. It is strongly advised not to leave an infection or avoid treatment as the infection can cause serious health concerns without intervention.

Can Lyme Disease Be Cured?

No. It is possible to clear a Lyme infection if treated immediately after the initial bite and treated for longer than two weeks. If Lyme is improperly treated, or left untreated for months or years, it can be difficult or impossible to eradicate the infection. Many with late-stage Lyme will have to control and manage the infection for the rest of their lives. 

If Lyme Disease Is Incurable, Why Should I Treat It?

Treating Lyme Disease will help to manage symptoms and give the patient a sense of wellbeing. Those who are bed ridden or unable to work are able to get their lives back. What happens after that is management of the disease. A person can become symptoms free. 

How Bad Can Lyme Disease Get?

Lyme Disease is a very complicated disease with a multitude of different symptoms. Due to this unfortunate fact Lyme Disease is often misdiagnosed by health care practitioner’s many times before an individual realizes that this is the case. Lyme Disease can affect any system and organ in the body, and leave a patient with very serious complications, including death. 

Does Lyme Disease Stay In Your Body Forever?

Those with Late Disseminated Lyme Disease will have to continually manage the Lyme infection. It can go into remission, and a patient can become asymptomatic, but the bacteria has been proven to hide in the body and can remain active or become active again. 

How Serious is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease can be life-threatening or cause serious health concerns and symptoms. Whether Lyme is confirmed or suspected, it should be treated.

What Other Illnesses Have Been Linked To Lyme Disease?

It has been observed that multiple illnesses can come along with Lyme or be linked to the Lyme bacteria. These illnesses include, but are not limited to, the following:

Can an MRI Detect Lyme Disease?

No. An MRI is not helpful in the diagnosis of Lyme disease. However, an MRI scan in patients with neurological Lyme Disease may demonstrate increased intensity in white matter or inflammatory changes. If these are caused by Lyme Disease, they may clear up after treatment. 

Can a Lumber Puncture Detect Lyme Disease?

Whether or not Lyme can be detected in a lumbar puncture remains controversial, and more studies are needed. A general consensus is that the bacteria does not stay in the blood or spinal fluid for very long, and therefore a false negative can lead to under diagnosing Lyme if this mode of testing is relied on.

What is Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS)?

Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome is often diagnosed if someone still has symptoms after treating Lyme Disease with a short round of antibiotics. Doctors claim they do not know the cause of the syndrome and will just manage the symptoms to keep the patient comfortable. One theory is that there is still inflammation left over after treatment. Another theory, which is probably more accurate, is that the Lyme infection persists, and longer treatment is necessary.

What Organs are Affected By Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease is a multi-systemic illness. This means it can affect all organs and systems in the body. 

How Long Can You Have Lyme Disease Without Knowing?

The short answer is forever. Due to the inaccuracy of testing, and the mentality of the health care system to blatantly ignore most cases of Lyme, many people go undiagnosed for months, years or decades.

Does Lyme Disease Affect The Brain?

Yes. Lyme bacteria can invade the brain and damage nerve cells, trigger inflammation, release neurotoxins, and disrupt the balance of brain chemicals. White matter lesions on the brain have been linked to Lyme Disease, as well as diseases such as MS, ALS and Alzheimer’s that are brain and nervous system disorders.

When Should I Get Checked for Lyme disease?

Get tested for Lyme immediately after a tick bite, whether you have symptoms or not. Many people do not display the classic bull’s eye rash or immediate fever and joint pain. Consider getting tested for Lyme if you have an undiagnosed serious chronic illness, or any of the following illnesses that has been linked to Lyme such as MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, neurological disorders, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Alzheimer’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Raynaud’s Disease, Chron’s/Colitis, Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), ADHD, Interstitial Cystitis, Meniere’s Disease, and Myeloencephalitis (EPM).

Can You Get Reinfected With Lyme Disease?

Yes. Lyme is caused by a bacteria, and just like getting strep throat, or a Urinary Bladder Infection, you can get another infection if you are exposed again.

I'm Not As Sick As Someone I Know With Lyme Disease, Should I Get Tested/Do Treatment Anyway?

Everyone with Lyme is different, and some cases are more severe than others. It’s important to understand that Lyme is a progressive disease and can get worse overtime. 

Can You Get Lyme Disease in the Winter?

Yes. Due to Climate Change, winters are now warm enough for ticks to be active all year round.