Lyme Disease: Plain and Simple

6:30 AM

Guest blogger: Alexis Pronovost
It's a beautiful summer day as you walk through the overgrown forest near your house. Long grasses brush against your exposed legs adorned with shorts; flip-flop clad feet and bare arms. You pay no mind to the path which you aren't taking, only that this short cut leads you to your destination faster. There's nothing to worry about in the wilderness apart from poison ivy and animals. You're one with nature.
That's where you're wrong. You barely glanced at the sign at the beginning of the trail: Beware, Lyme disease infected ticks. “I've never heard of Lyme disease,” you thought. “It must not be a big deal.” But Lyme disease is a lot bigger than what the misinformed society knows. What is it, how it can be treated, and how you can be protected from it are all questions that are soon to be answered.

Lyme disease is a spirochete infection caused by a bacterium named Borrelia burgdorferi. It is spiral in form, much like syphilis and is able to burrow quickly into the body's core. Transmitted through the bite of a tick (most commonly deer ticks in North America) Lyme is highly susceptible to people who like to immerse themselves in nature. It was first discovered in the rural areas of Lyme, Connecticut in 1975 after there were many unexplained cases of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in children. Research found that the children affected played regularly in wooded areas and overgrown forests near where they lived. The children had also begun to show symptoms in the summer, the height of tick activity. One of the first symptoms is a rash in the appearance of a bull's eye, however not everyone gets the rash. Sometimes it looks like an old burn and that is why it is easy for Lyme to go unnoticed. Even if you do suspect that you have Lyme, there is a high probability that you will be misdiagnosed because there are many other illnesses that have the same symptoms as Lyme disease; to name a few: MS, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia. Sure there's a test, however the majority of the results come out as a “false negative” if there are not enough antibodies developed, allowing Lyme disease to further grow into your system.
Controversy over the type of treatment is a continual topic in the world of Lyme. Although larger in the states, Lyme has crossed the border into Canada and Canadian doctors now have to be aware of the symptoms and available treatment. Within the first three months of contraction (if known) it is highly advisable to take a thirty day antibiotic treatment before Lyme can settle. After that it is extremely possible for Lyme to develop into a chronic illness if it has not been treated. Lyme is treated with continual antibiotics and other medicinal techniques depending on the development of the case. Many patients decide to go the naturalistic route with homeopathic and herbal remedies. Alternative supplements are usually used even when on antibiotics.
To eradicate Lyme, antibiotics are often needed for more than the conventional treatment of the initial thirty days. Lyme disease is a very touch-and-go type of illness where you will feel better than ever one day and be completely bedridden the next. It essentially affects the entire body, specifically the nervous and muscular systems. Some symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches and pains, as well as paralysis and constant migraines. All the same, symptoms depend on the patient and the depth of the illness. Summer is one of the peak times for ticks, so if flu-like symptoms develop within the warm months consult a physician; the second peak time is in October.
Sometimes the symptoms will go away, like cancer remission, and then they may come back full throttle. My brother, for example, didn't know that he had Lyme because he had always had minor health issues. Now, we suspect that it was just a case of the illness not completely showing its face. In 2007 after already been diagnosed with Lyme for a year and a half, his body would not allow the intake of many different substances, at times even water. As a result, my brother is extremely health conscious now; a vegan as well as gluten free. His liver took a hard blast from Lyme and was swollen for a long time; there was a period when he could only eat two different types of food. He had to work his way back to natural, organic and raw foods in order to stay healthy. The muscle aches and pains are still there, however, at twenty-four my brother continues to gain strength and hope for a brighter future. My mom also has Lyme, but my family is an example of how the natural methods of healing work.
Prevention and early detection are the keys to defeating Lyme disease. It's a lot easier to get rid of something that you don't have in the first place by protecting yourself from it. That's why the population in most continents, if not all, mainly North American, Europe, Asia and Australia need to be informed that Lyme is endemic in areas around the world. Some places in Ontario that are Lyme “positive” are Long Point on the north shore of Lake Erie and Point Pelee. Other provinces that are Lyme endemic are parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia. When in these Lyme endemic regions it's useful to take precautions so that you, in turn, will hopefully never contract Lyme disease. Wear light coloured clothing to better see ticks on your body, as well as long sleeves and long pants with (preferably) socks pulled over the bottom of your pants. Keep away from long grasses and bushes where ticks like to perch. If you're on a trail stay to the middle of the path. Ticks like warm nooks and crannies so check behind the knees, armpits and even in your hair for the little bugs. If you ever do find a tick on your skin, don't panic. Use tweezers to carefully remove the bug without squeezing the body. Try not to crush it because that increases the risk of bacteria transference, however you can twist the bug to easier remove its grip from your skin. Go to the doctor if you are bitten in a Lyme disease populated area. Doctors will also help to remove the tick properly.
Lyme disease is scary to go through or see someone you love go through if it develops into a chronic illness. I have dealt with it first hand, and I would not wish it on anyone. However, that doesn't mean you need to be afraid of the outdoors. Mother nature is meant to be cherished, so enjoy her. Next time you decide to go off the beaten track, chuck those open toed shoes and wear sneakers. Pull those socks up high and wear long sleeves and bug repellant. Now that you know the symptoms and precautions to take so that you won't get Lyme disease, there's no need to worry. If you do end up contracting Lyme, remember that it takes determination and hope. Never give up; it's still possible to get well despite the lack of information and understanding surrounding this misunderstood disease.

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