Lyme disease is a persistent and growing problem here in CT. We have the highest concentration of cases in Litchfield County. The dilemma of what to do about it is somewhat perplexing to many people. The tests are negative, but all the symptoms seem to be present yet the doctor says it’s not Lyme. This is a common story. Unfortunately the current available testing is unreliable. There is much that we don’t yet know about Lyme disease and the organism that causes it. What we do know is that it is something to be taken seriously and treated aggressively. Some people opt for antibiotic therapy for others these have failed. No matter your circumstances there is hope.
Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis often made chiefly on symptoms present. The list of symptoms caused by lyme is long. The biggest symptom is a bull’s eye rash, called erythema migrans. If this is present you are guaranteed a diagnosis of Lyme disease. However, the rash only shows up in the head, facial paralysis, floaters in visual field, blurry vision, joint pains, stiffness in joints, muscle pain, chronic fatigue, numbness or tingling, extreme fatigue, poor memory, intermittent fevers and many more. Most people only have a few of these symptoms, but they are often severe enough to interfere with every day activities.
The organism that causes Lyme disease is known as Borrellia burgdorferi. It is a spiral bacterium similar to the Treponema organism that causes syphilis. They are capable of literally drilling their way into tissues and getting into any area of the body. Their favorite spots include anywhere there is a high percentage of collagen like joint spaces, the brain, and the eye. The Borrellia organism is not found freely in nature, it needs a host to survive. The organism typically lives in small rodents like field mice, ticks and deer. The deer tick is the vector of choice for Borrellia.
There are some simple tips to keep you and your family tick free without resorting to Deet bug spray. It is important to keep in mind the areas where ticks like to be and areas where they can hide from the sun when setting up a play area for your children. They live happily in areas near shady woods waiting for someone to walk by so that they can jump on and find their next host. Setting up your play area in the middle of the sunny yard helps discourage ticks because they dry out quickly in the sun and cannot survive. When out hiking remember that it may take several hours for a tick to find a suitable site for a bite. In that time it is helpful to do tick checks on your family and if possible shower to wash away any ticks that may not have bitten yet. Keeping the yard clean and the wood pile away from the area the children play in all help to play a role in keeping your family tick free. Some even recommend lining your yard with 3 feet of mulch to discourage the little bugs from entering.
These are all great recommendations, but what do you do if you actually get bitten by a tick?! I’ve heard the recommendation to get antibiotics right away, but is this wise? It may prevent a few cases of Lyme disease, but how many cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria are created because we overuse antibiotics in this way? There is a simpler way! Astragalus is an herb with immune stimulant properties. It has been shown to reduce the incidence of infection when started soon after a bite. Lab results are useful, but often will not be positive immediately after a bite even if infection has occurred. It takes the body time to recognize the infection and mount a response to it. If you are concerned about Lyme infection lab tests should be run within a week of the bite and then if negative re-run 6 weeks later. If you actually have symptoms it is important to get those antibiotics and not wait. Acute Lyme symptoms are fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, fevers, and the bull’s eye rash. When these symptoms are present after a recent tick bite it is important to get those antibiotics ASAP.
If you want treatment without starting antibiotics you might be a candidate for herbal therapies. While antibiotics are the first line of defense against Lyme disease when it is acute, they are only 70-percent effective. Herbal therapies can help because they effectively eradicate the disease and are more helpful when those antibiotics don’t work causing the Lyme to become chronic. A combination of Smilax, Andrographis, Teasle root, and Cat’s claw can be an effective remedy for Lyme disease when antibiotics are not effective. When these herbs are used in an appropriate dosage they can help you to clear Lyme disease from your system. Herbal therapy combined with conventional antibiotic therapy tends to yield the best results particularly when addressing chronic Lyme disease.
Dr. Heather M. Veronesi is a licensed Naturopathic Physician practicing in Canton, CT. Dr. Veronesi earned her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. She is also certified in acupuncture through Briarwood College. Dr. Veronesi’s focus is in general family medicine using diet & lifestyle, vitamins& minerals, homeopathy, and acupuncture. Dr. Veronesi is available for seminars per request. Please call 860-601-1318