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What Is Lyme Disease?

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Lyme disease

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  • Lyme disease is the most common infectious tickborne disease in the U.S.
  • Lyme disease was named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first identified in 1975

According to the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Lyme disease is the most common tickborne infectious disease in the U.S.1 The disease was named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first identified in 1975.

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.2

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.3 B. burgdorferi looks identical to the spirochete that causes syphilis.4 Its corkscrew shape 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.5

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.6

Treating Lyme disease is generally 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.7

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.8,9

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).10 If untreated, symptoms such as pain, weakness, numbness, paralysis of the facial muscles and meningitis may be experienced the following weeks to months after an infected tick’s bite.11

Is Lyme Disease Fatal?

Lyme disease is not typically fatal when treated promptly, although it can cause debilitating complications such as chronic joint inflammation (often affecting the knees), cognitive defects like impaired memory and neurological disorders like facial palsy and neuropathy.12,13 However, if left untreated, it can lead to potentially life-threatening complications like Lyme carditis.14,15

Conventional treatment usually involves antibiotics,16 but these medications can disrupt your gut flora and expose you to a whole host of other side effects. So, before you resort to standard treatment, make sure you consider their downsides.


Lyme Disease: Introduction

What Is Lyme Disease?

Is Lyme Disease Contagious?

Lyme Disease Causes

Lyme Disease Stages

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Lyme Disease Treatment

Lyme Disease Prevention

Lyme Disease Test

Lyme Disease Diet

Lyme Disease FAQ

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