January 20, 2017

The Reality of Lyme Disease Infectiousness

Building a Strong Immune System 

by Dr. Scott Saunders

“You’re number 80,” the middle-aged woman said mournfully as she walked in.

“You’re exaggerating.” I stated matter-of-factly.

“No,” she replied, “I’m counting!”

doctor healed lyme disease v2For the previous seven years Jane had been to 79 doctors for an illness that nobody could figure out.  She was having chest pain and difficulty breathing, but nobody could find anything wrong with her heart or lungs.  Nothing turned up on blood tests, x-rays, and other investigations.  She continued to get worse over time, including fatigue, weakness, and joint pains. We finally determined that she was suffering from a very elusive infection – Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Discovery

The story of how Lyme disease was discovered is fascinating.  Lyme disease was unknown until 1973 when a group of people became ill with a mysterious disease in Lyme, Connecticut.  Due to the persistence of mothers of several sick children, an investigation was conducted. The disease was named “Lyme disease.” At the time, it was considered a tick-borne disease. However, the exact cause was unknown until 1981 when the spirochete organism was found in ticks in Colorado.  Dr. Willy Burgdorf was studying another illness caused by ticks when the bacteria for Lyme, called spirochetes, were found.

Spirochetes are not like other types of bacteria or viruses.  They have unique characteristics that allow them to infect any cell or tissue in the body.  They can also evade the immune system, both by hiding inside cells and by producing a protective coating.  For this reason, they can cause any type of problem and disguise as many illnesses. This is why syphilis, another spirochete-like Borrelia, was called “The Great Imitator.”  It could imitate any disease because it can infect any tissue. Its symptoms are like those of many other diseases, from rashes to schizophrenia.  One researcher on syphilis noted:

Spirochetes“In two-thirds of untreated people, spirochetes and host will live amicably together until the patient dies of other causes, in about a third, however, the organism will continue to act upon the host to cause a variety of mischief.”[1]

These exact words could be used to describe Lyme disease today. The “variety of mischief” means it could infect any organ or tissue, causing any sort of problem. Indeed, Lyme disease could be “The Great Imitator” of the 21st Century!

A Stealthy Disease

Even though Lyme disease was only recognized 40 years ago, new discoveries found the Lyme bacteria in a fossilized tick from the Dominican Republic, indicating that it existed before humans walked the Earth.[2] The oldest known human to have Lyme disease was a mummified body found in a glacier in the Italian Alps that may be as old as 5300 years![3]

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Lyme disease bullseye rashThe symptoms of Lyme disease are as variable as the people who have it.  It is a slippery condition to diagnose because nothing defines it, except a known tick bite. Subsequently, the tick bite produces a rash known as erythema chronicum migrans (EM) days to weeks later.

These rashes typically look like a “target,” but are actually highly variable. The CDC states that up to a third of people with Lyme disease never get, or see, a rash. In some cases rashes may spread beyond the original bite, and persist for years.

Other common symptoms include:

(3 to 30 days after tick bite)

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Later Signs and Symptoms

later signs and symptoms of lyme disease(Weeks to years after tick bite)

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
  • Severe fatigue
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints
  • Facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
  • Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme myocarditis)
  • Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Nerve pain
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with short-term memory[4]

Lyme Disease Testing

Jane had visited so many doctors who weren’t able to find a diagnosis because there is no accurate way to know if she had Lyme disease. The tests for Lyme look for antibodies, but the organism doesn’t always produce antibodies. Many people have little or no immune response to the presence of the spirochete. If you test positive, there is a good chance you have it. However, if you test negative, that doesn’t rule it out. Twenty years ago doctors were told that in order to have Lyme disease four criteria had to be met:

  1. The patient had to be in the Northeastern United States
  2. The tick had to be attached for more than 36 hours
  3. There had to be an EM rash
  4. There had to be a positive blood test

It turns out that as more research is done, some people with Lyme disease may have only two, one, or even none of these. Unfortunately, most doctors still only know these four criteria, and fail to recognize many cases of Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease is Increasing in Numbers

In January 2014 Lymedisease.org reported,

“Last summer the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Lyme disease is much more common than previously thought, with over 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. That makes Lyme disease almost twice as common as breast cancer and six times more common than HIV/AIDS.”[5]

We’re not sure that there are that many black-legged tick bites every year! In spite of this, the CDC continues to assert that the disease can only be acquired by ticks. Clearly, these numbers are much greater than can be explained by only tick bites.

Lyme Disease Transmission

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His Prostate Diagnosis. Her Stress.

If your husband has prostate cancer — or any pre-cancerous prostate condition — then your loved one’s cancer is your cancer, too. The  “in sickness” part of your wedding vows has just been epitomized.

Songs of undying love and sonnets of passion don’t compete with the tangible expression of incontinence diapers, catheter pouches and being rear ended with needles.

As a wife or partner to a man with dangerous a prostate condition, it is often your responsibility to process the information, emotions and complicated symptoms. Sometimes the paperwork degenerates quickly into an unintelligible tangle, but you give strength to your husband by giving in such a tangible way. By becoming a medical advocate and the one in care of finding and supervising treatment, you are a blessing to your husband.

I hope to offer a little help to those women who often go unnoticed when a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer or a serious prostate health condition.  Wives and others care for those they love that are suffering, listen to them, cook special foods, bear fears and be a constant cheerleader – sometimes without much acknowledgement.

Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

While men are facing their own fears and anxieties about their future and their health, the fears and own concerns of their wives and partners can be just as great.

Cancer greatly impacts both partners in a couple regardless of who actually carries the diagnosis. This is particularly true of prostate cancer, the “relationship cancer.”

Since girlhood, many women are taught to appear as if everything is always under control—even when nothing could be further from the truth.

If you look at the top stressful events of life, having a cancer diagnosis or major healthy threat ranks near the top.  Thoughts like these often surface:

  • What happens if the treatment isn’t successful?
  • Will we ever be close again?
  • What if the cancer has spread?
  • What if the cancer returns?
  • What happens if I lose him?

There is an expression called “self-talk” that can be a valuable tool when you find yourself listening to the anxious talk inside of you.  The story of “thousand mirrors” serves to reflect how our attitude can change what we see is around us:

The House of a Thousand Mirrors

Long ago in a tiny village, there was a place called the House of a Thousand Mirrors. A little dog decided to visit the house. He was an unhappy dog, and his natural expression was a cross between a scowl and a sneer.

As he entered the large house, he saw a thousand mean- and scary-looking dogs staring back at him. He immediately backed away and let out a low growl to protect himself, and just as he did, all one thousand of the mean dogs growled back at him. He ran out of the house immediately and thought, “What a terrible place that is. I’ll never go back there again.”

Not long afterward, another dog decided to visit the house. As he approached, he saw how beautiful and inviting it looked and couldn’t wait to go inside. He smiled and wagged his tail in anticipation of his adventure. As he pushed open the door, he was greeted by a thousand dogs with wagging tails and big smiles approaching him. Of course he was thrilled; he had a thousand new friends he was sure would become his buddies.

The more positive you can be right now, the more smiling puppies you’ll have to cheer you on.  The lesson learned here is what we choose to give is truly what we receive in return.

Attachment is the Road to Healing

What you tell yourself and how you communicate with men is another challenge in having a loved with dangerous prostate health.  Let’s start off by saying your husband

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