Lyme: Managing problems caused by Lyme disease

Managing problems caused by Lyme disease by Prof Oladapo Ashiru

 

A good number of people are constantly disturbed by severe back pain. In many cases, patients are given high doses of analgesics with no major relief. Some will proceed to spinal surgery to alleviate pain from the inter-vertebral disc. Unknown to them, the real cause of the pain is a Lyme infection attacking the joints or the spinal vertebral disc. The same is true of infertility due to Lyme infection that affects both male and female infertility. In most cases, it is not diagnosed.

In the last four years, treating a patient with infertility, menopausal issues, as well as other general health problems, has brought to the forefront of our practice a disease called Lyme disease. Everyone needs to beware of this disease as it presents in various forms of illness. Lyme disease was the most commonly reported vector-borne disease of 2013 in the United States, according to the Centre for Disease Control.

In Africa, we have all heard about mosquitoes biting us and giving us malaria. But what if we tell you that there are other insects out there biting us and giving us even more deadly diseases than malaria? There are many different insects biting us and giving us illnesses, which have been classified as Lyme disease.

The difficulty is that, unlike mosquitoes that show signs and symptoms like fever and headache within a few days of the bite, the Lyme is a more intelligent pathogen that shows no signs until later stages when fully developed inside the body, in places like the joints or the spinal cord or the reproductive system.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria that we can get from the bite of infected ticks, lice, bed bugs, sand flies and many other visible and invisible insects. The main bacteriare called Borreliaburgdorferi. Lyme disease is called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. It can affect any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, the heart and the brain.

How do people get Lyme disease?

People usually get Lyme disease from ticks infected with Lyme bacteria.  Most human cases are caused by immature ticks, which are about the size of a poppy seed. Because their bite is painless, many people do not realise they have been bitten.

Ticks may remain attached for several days while they feed. The longer they remain attached, the greater the risk that they will pass the Lyme bacteria into your bloodstream, where they will start spreading throughout your body.

If pregnant women are infected, they sometimes pass Lyme disease to their unborn children. Some doctors believe other types of human-to-human transmission are possible, but little is known about them for certain.

Where is Lyme disease found?

Lyme disease has been found on every continent, except Antarctica.

It is the fastest growing vector-borne disease, 85 per cent of infected people do not remember being bitten by a tick. Less than 70 per cent of people develop a rash. The disease is difficult to diagnose because laboratory tests may be negative in the first four to six weeks.

Early symptoms of the disease include flu-like illness, such as fever, chills, sweats, muscles aches, fatigue, nausea and joint pain. Less than 10 per cent of infected people have classic bull’s eye rash.

Other symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, light or sound sensitivity, Cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance , depression,  anxiety, or mood swings,  Arthritis,  fatigue , abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, palpitations ,  shortness of breath, tingling, burning or shooting pain, memory and hearing loss,  as well as other sensory loss, high blood pressure, spinal or radicular pain.

About 25 per cent of Lyme patients are children. 50 per cent don’t have any history of being bitten by a tick.  And less than 70 per cent of them even have a rash, which would sensitise the parents that the child has been bitten.

Most laboratory tests are negative in the first four to six weeks, which makes diagnosis and treatment difficult.

 

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