Testing Trends: Lyme Disease
As the weather begins to heat up many of us start spending more time outdoors.
Sunset strolls, gardening, picnics, hiking, camping, fishing, and golfing are just some activities we relish in. It makes me wonder how I survived through the winter. However, while this weather brings freedom to play, it also frees insect populations from their slumber...
Don't like where this is heading? Neither do we, but we want to share the scoop on lyme disease so you can enjoy the awesome outdoors with a peaceful and knowledgeable mind. You should know what to look out for, and what to do to prevent lyme disease and manage any infection!
Stats tell us that lyme disease is the fastest-growing insect borne infection (caused by the bacteria Borrellia bugdorferi) affecting North America, Europe, and Asia. In Canada, the central and eastern Canada are more risky areas than in the west.
So what's the big deal with getting a little tick bite?
Well, a bite can lead to an infection causing lyme disease (especially from black-legged ticks). This can manifest as either an acute or more problematically, chronic infection which has no current cure.
Fever & chills
Muscle / joint aches
Swollen lymph nodes
Numbness & tingling
Erythema migrans (EM) aka. "bulls-eye rash"
Wandering muscle/ joint pain
Abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits
Memory / cognitive impairment
Difficulties with balance / coordination
Light & sound sensitivity
Cardiac complications (ie. palpitations, chest pain, mitral valve prolapse, heart block)
Hormone imbalance (ie. hypothyroidism, irregular menstrual periods)
You can see why lyme disease is also known as "The Great Mimic" as many of its symptoms are shared with other illnesses. Some may mistake these symptoms for the common flu for example, and this is why it's important to know and share the awareness.
Symptoms typically manifest within two weeks of infection, but can take up to four weeks.
When it becomes chronic, this means that the infection continues to causes symptoms for months or even years, not responding to conventional treatment. This really impairs the quality of life, and causes a lot of hardship on a person and for their caregivers/ dependents.
Early detection and diagnosis is largely determined by clinical symptoms, meaning by symptoms the patient and doctor can assess during the clinic appointment.
Testing is done to support clinical suspicion since current methods are relatively inaccurate - a lot of false negatives can happen (results don't pick anything up when you actually have something).
Currently, testing for lyme disease involves a two-step process. There is the initial lyme disease screening test which looks for IgG and IgM antibodies (specific proteins your body makes when it comes into contact with a foreign invader, aka. the B. burgdorfeli bacteria).
If this first test comes back positive or undetermined, then we move on to the second step. The Western Blot test measures more specific antibodies that develop in response to the B. burgdorfeli bacteria.
Early diagnosis is key in receiving treatment in time to help eradicate the bacteria, as antibiotics are only effective when the bacteria are replicating. Once the bacteria becomes dormant, it is not possible with current medication to eradicate it, which can lead to chronic symptoms.
By educating yourselves and others on how to reduce your risk and prevent tick bites, removing ticks immediately with proper technique, and on how to detect early symptoms it is much more possible to receive early treatment.
Most who receive treatment early can expect a quick and full recovery!
"A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it."
Feel free to speak with your health care provider (or a naturopath :) if you have any further questions and want to learn more!
Lyme disease: keeping it top of mind. Ontario College of Family Physicians. https://ocfp.on.ca/communications/blog/ocfp-blog/2016/07/06/lyme-disease-keeping-it-top-of-mind
Two step laboratory testing process. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/diagnosistesting/labtest/twostep/index.html
Lyme disease: treatment. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/treatment/index.html
Lyme disease: tick removal and testing. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/index.html
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Photo by Michelle Spencer on Unsplash