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The Blood Detective: Lyme Disease: The Masquerader of Many Health Problems?

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Dr. Michael Wald
Dr. Michael Wald

If you’ve ever experienced a different kind of fatigue, a type that you’ve never felt before, perhaps with joint or muscle pains in various parts of your body, then you might have Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the spirochete Borrellia Burdorferi. Other symptoms such as nagging headaches, memory loss, unexplained depression and nerve pains might also be caused by this troublesome tick-borne infection. Here is what you should know about Lyme disease treatment and the medical controversies that may prevent a full recovery.

Rash or No Rash and Spread of the Disease

Lyme disease is often first recognized by the appearance of one or more skin rashes called “a bullseye rash” or erythema chronicum migrans (ECM). The rash is caused by a local infection, which may spread throughout the body. However, 40 to 50 percent of the time you will not see a rash. The condition may therefore go undiagnosed for months and even years.

Lyme disease starts locally, but can invade all parts of the body, including the skin, muscles, joints, nervous system, cardiovascular system, ocular tissues, sinus, GI tissue and even lungs. It is also thought that various autoimmune problems can be caused or triggered by the Lyme disease bacterial spirochete. These conditions might confuse doctors; therefore Lyme disease may go undiagnosed.

Lyme Disease: Is it the problem?

Our patients have gone from doctor to doctor and been given multiple diagnoses, including depression, arthritis, memory and cognitive defects. Lyme disease that affects the nervous system is called neuroboreliosis. Some doctors believe that Lyme disease is always cured with a month-long course of antibiotics, but other doctors believe that the condition can become chronic  and even progressive, resulting in misdiagnoses. Some conditions that might be confused with Lyme disease include multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, hepatitis, bone marrow problems, arthritis, muscle pain, nerve problems, various infections and more.

Lyme Disease Diagnosis: Problems

The diagnosis of Lyme disease is usually a clinical one, but also may be supported by the presence of a number of antibodies upon blood testing. First stage testing is known as the enzyme link immunoabsorbent test (ELISA) and indirect immunofluorescence microscopy. The Western blot or immunoblot assays are used for secondary-level testing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has concluded that five positive IgG bands and/or two positive IgM bands means you are infected, but many patients have fewer bands or even no bands and this does not mean that they do not have the disease. Unfortunately, one can have Lyme disease even with fewer lab findings than those set by the CDC. In fact, a person with Lyme disease can have negative tests for up to five years after they start experiencing symptoms. There are other tests that can support the diagnosis of Lyme disease that are not performed by most mainstream doctors but have substantial research backing including PCR testing and DNA amplification testing.

Integrated Healing Approach

An integrated medical approach for Lyme disease considers recent disease history, symptoms, genetic tendencies and all other health issues. The identification of other infections is also part of our basic approach. After all, there are several tick-born infections beyond Lyme disease including various viruses and parasites that might be missed. Because many health problems can mimic Lyme disease, we have developed our Blood Detective Longevity Plan to uncover hidden health issues that might be confused with Lyme disease. Every individual is different. This is why we pride ourselves on developing both medical and nutritional approaches that fit our patients’ needs.

By Dr. Nilay Shah and Dr. Michael Wald

Dr. Michael Wald is a regular columnist for The Examiner and is an author of more than books on health. He is featured regularly on News 12 Westchester and is the director of nutrition at Integrated Medicine and Nutrition in Mount Kisco. For Lyme disease and other infections, holistic-neurologist Dr. Nilay Shah works with Dr. Wald to produce the best results for their patients. They can be reached at 914-242-8844 ext. 1 or visit www.intmedny.com. Also, Twitter: @DrMichaelWald.

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