A Summary of “Lyme Disease: Do We Have the Final Answers?”
by Dr. Martha M. Grout
In an article published to
Green Living magazine, Martha M. Grout, MD, MD(H) discusses the challenges of diagnosing
and treating Lyme disease, which is contracted through the micro-organism known as
Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). Immediately after the identification of the disease in 1981, controversy
rose about whether or not the disease actually existed. Doctors were disciplined,
and still are today, for treating a “non-existent” illness.
Challenges of Diagnosing Lyme Disease
When a patient comes to his or her doctor with the “bull’s
eye rash” that is known to be a characteristic of Lyme disease,
the diagnosis is simple and treatment can begin immediately. However,
in at least 40% of cases, no rash is present or identified. Additionally,
some symptoms can mimic those of other viral infections, or even the flu,
and can be misdiagnosed as such. In some cases, no abnormal symptoms appear
or are recognized at all.
Common symptoms include:
- Heart-rhythm abnormalities
- Abdominal pain or bloating
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
Why not test for Lyme disease? As recognizing the symptoms for what they
are can be challenging, there is a “standard” method of testing
for the diagnosis of Lyme, however, it has proven to be imperfect. Fewer
than 50% of documented cases of Lyme disease have yielded positive test
results, which means that a negative test does not always mean the patient
is not infected.
The issue with the test involves two key problems. The first is that there
are multiple species of Bb that can infect a patient, and the standard
system only tests for a single, lab-cultured species. The second issue
is with the patient’s own immune system: a Bb infection can severely
impact the immune system’s ability to make antibodies, which is
how the test recognizes the presence of the organism.
What does this mean for treatment of Lyme?
A lot of physicians will refuse to treat Lyme disease, either because of
the ambiguity of the symptoms that are present or the clinical suspicion
and likelihood of exposure. Treating Lyme with antibiotics may improve
symptoms, but might not eradicate the infection altogether. A technique
of immunotherapy is emerging for the treatment of chronic Lyme disease
to allow the body to tolerate its own tissues, similar to standard allergy
Read the full article by Martha M. Grout, MD, MD(H) on Green Living magazine’s website.