May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
This story is based on interviews done with local medical specialists who treat Lyme disease.
Specific ticks that may carry the Lyme bacterium borellia burgdorferi can attach to the skin and in some cases slowly release it, causing the disease.
Two weeks ago, a story about a Beaconsfield teenager suffering from debilitating chronic pain which has contorted her body and limited her mobility ran in the West Island Gazette. She was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease after visiting a medical practitioner south of the border.
Doctors who speak out against the chronic Lyme disease diagnosis — which is universally rejected by mainstream medicine — are harassed, intimidated, even threatened. For this reason, the doctors will not be named.
“It’s frustrating to have to speak anonymously because colleagues are being threatened,” one doctor said. “It’s come to the point where physicians who follow accepted scientific evidence and rigorous international guidelines but who didn’t go to ‘Google University’ are being told they don’t know what they are talking about. Chronic Lyme disease is not a medically accepted diagnosis. It suggests the infection is still active and that is not the case.”
The doctors agreed that Lyme disease is treatable at any stage.
Early Lyme appears within 30 days. There could be a bull’s-eye rash and/or non-specific flu-like symptoms and fever.
Early Disseminated Lyme could appear by two months. At this stage, bacteria may have entered the bloodstream and could result in heart abnormalities (rhythm block or inflammation) or brain infection/meningitis.
Late Lyme can occur many months after infection, manifesting as Bell’s Palsy (facial weakness) or arthritis in the large joints.
Lyme is treated with antibiotics. The treatment ranges from a one-time preventative dose if a tick has been removed but no symptoms have occurred, to two-weeks of oral antibiotics for the early stages, to one month of oral antibiotics for later stages or even intravenous antibiotics targeting specific areas of concern such as the brain that can’t be reached by taking a pill.
Some cases of arthritis may require up to two months of oral treatment if symptoms persist, but by that point, the Lyme bacteria are killed.
In a minority of cases, Lyme symptoms can be stubborn and may persist long after the infection has been treated.
“Objective post-Lyme-treatment symptoms are accepted conditions,” one doctor said. “But there is no active infection. It is usually due to residual aching of joints, or facial weakness after advanced stages of Lyme. We might treat it with anti-inflammatories or physiotherapy. The patient will eventually return to normal.”
However, doctors did not agree with the “Lyme-friendly” medical practitioners who prescribe as much as two years of intravenous antibiotics for what the practitioners call chronic Lyme disease — a diagnosis given to patients who have chronic pain, fatigue or vague symptoms (many with no history of a tick bite).
“Can you imagine what you are doing to the healthy flora in your gut?” one doctor said. “Not to mention the possibility of a serious infection at the (intravenous catheter) site. You can even end up with possibly deadly C-difficile colitis. These potentially dangerous alternative treatments are also enormously expensive and not covered by insurance. But worse, you are being treated for an infection that is no longer present. And the majority of people being treated never had Lyme in the first place.”
Those desperate enough, seek out the advice of proponents of chronic Lyme disease and end up sending their blood or urine for testing at a for-profit laboratory in the United States. The threshold for diagnosis in these laboratories is lower than in the not-for-profit labs used by hospitals. False positives occur frequently. Three years ago, samples from 40 healthy and uninfected people were sent to an American for-profit laboratory which diagnosed 23 of the 40 with Lyme.
“These people are seduced into believing they have something they don’t have,” one doctor said. “It is important to know that we are not dismissing people with chronic pain or other medical or psychological conditions. It’s not always easy to diagnose chronic pain but what we know for sure is that they don’t have Lyme disease and we cannot give them alternative and potentially dangerous treatments just be cause they have been told they have Lyme disease by someone operating outside of the mainstream medical path for a hefty fee.”
Rigorously standardized testing is done in Canada and the U.S. by all mainstream doctors. The first step is a sensitive antibody screen that detects more than just Lyme antibodies, which means false positives can occur, but not false negatives. It can take at least four weeks for the antibodies to form, so timing for the testing process is important. If the timing is correct and there is a negative result, further testing may not be done. All positive first screens undergo a stringent test called the Western Blot which is done at a centralized laboratory.
“If you are negative, you’re negative and if you are positive after step 2, you’re truly positive,” one specialist said.
For information about Lyme disease in Canada, visit the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada website www.ammi.ca/?ID=137.
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