Earlier this year a study from a group of scientists associated with Texas A & M veterinary department published a study in the journal Parasites and Vectors which demonstrated that the germ that causes Lyme’s Disease was found in 45% of the Ixodes scapularis ticks (also known as black-legged or deer tick) that they recovered from small animals in the Southern Texas/Northern Mexico region of study. Prior to this study, there had been speculation that the Lyme Disease bacteria was uncommon in Texas. Unfortunately, this appears to not be accurate based on this study.
What is Lyme Disease? Lyme disease is an unusual disease caused by infection with a spirochete bacteria named Borrelia Burgdorferi. The bacteria is usually contracted through the bite of a deer tick carrying the germ inside it. In some patients shortly after becoming infected a disease happens with a “bull’s eye or target-lesion” rash called erythema migrans. Later a disseminated form may develop with headaches, shooting pains, loss of muscle strength on one side of the face (Bell’s Palsy), heart palpitations, and joint pain or swelling. Finally a chronic late form-late disseminated form and even Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome can occur. These later forms masquerade as many other chronic debilitating diseases that are related to other environmental exposures so quite a bit of confusion exists about the later stages of this disease. Unfortunately, some patients diagnosed with the late-stage disease do not recall a tick bite or the typical erythema migrans rash. There is also evidence that some people may harbor the Lyme Disease germ but not show any symptoms of it.
Since 2002 783 confirmed cases of Lyme Disease have been reported to the CDC although this number is thought to significantly underestimate the actual number of cases. In 2010 22,572 human cases of Lyme Disease were reported to the CDC from throughout the United States. Cases have now been reported from all 50 United States and at least 6 foreign countries.
A key to prevention is to always be vigilant for ticks when you are outdoors especially around areas of vegetation. You should seek medical attention immediately if you develop a rash and other symptoms especially if there is a history of tick bites. Lyme’s bacteria can be treated with antibiotics and the earlier the better. Diagnosis is controversial as there is no one best test for Lyme Disease. The symptom picture can also be mimicked by infection with a number of similar infective agents (bacteria, virus, and parasites) as well as from exposure to a variety of environmental toxins.
At Forum Health Austin, Dr. Taylor has years of experience dealing with Lyme Disease patients and others with diseases that mimic Lyme Disease. Management of chronic Lyme Disease requires also treating and supporting the body generally in order to allow the body to recover. This often involves supporting metabolic pathways that allow immune system recovery, hormone balance, toxin clearance, and reduction of undesirable inflammation.
Wally Taylor MD