According to the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Lyme disease is the most common infectious tickborne disease in the U.S.1 The disease was named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first identified back in 1975.2
It was initially called “Lyme arthritis” because it presented uncharacteristic arthritic symptoms that even affected children. In 1977, the deer tick, which is also known as the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis), was linked to the transmission of the disease.
The bacterium responsible for Lyme disease was identified by Willy Burgdorfer, Ph.D., in 1982. Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of long and slender bacterium known as a spirochete, was named after him, and looks identical to the spirochete that causes syphilis.
The corkscrew shape of B. burgdorferi enables it to burrow into and hide in various body tissues. This is the reason it can cause a wide range of symptoms and affect different parts of the body.
Lyme disease can also be caused by three other species of bacteria: Borrelia mayonii, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii bacteria. In the U.S., B. burgdorferi and B. mayonii are the leading causes of the disease, while B. garinii and B. afzelii are the primary causes of Lyme disease in Asia and Europe.3
Treating Lyme disease is generally very difficult, and symptoms can recur because the bacteria do not just exist as a spirochete; they can even live inside your cells (intracellularly) taking either an “L-form” or “cyst form.”
There is a high chance of recurrence after standard antibiotic treatment because of these different morphologies.
What Will Happen If Lyme Is Not Treated Early?
If Lyme disease remains undiagnosed or is left untreated, the spirochetes can spread and hide in different parts of the body.
Problems with your brain and nervous system, heart and circulation, muscles and joints, reproductive system, digestion and skin can occur weeks, months or years later. The symptoms can also come and go even without treatment.
Patients who are not treated early may experience severe symptoms that are difficult to resolve. This is called chronic Lyme disease (CLD) or post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD).4 Around seven to 30 days after an infected tick’s bite, neurological symptoms may be experienced such as pain, weakness, numbness, paralysis of the facial muscles and meningitis symptoms.5
Is Lyme Disease Fatal?
While it is not typically fatal, Lyme disease can cause debilitating symptoms such as chronic joint inflammation (often affecting the knee/s), cognitive defects like impaired memory and can sometimes even lead to heart rhythm irregularities.6 Around 23 deaths have been attributed to Lyme disease, so do not take it lightly.7
Conventional treatment usually involves antibiotics that disrupt your gut flora and expose you to a whole host of other side effects. This is why it is advisable to exhaust every natural alternative before you resort to standard treatment with antibiotics.