Healthy Living

Chronic Lyme Disease

Chronic Lyme Disease

Key Takeaways

  • This disease is also known as post-treatment Lyme disease.
  • Approximately 10% to 20% of the patients who are treated with antibiotics continue to show signs and symptoms of the disease even after completion of therapy.
  • The reason for these persisting infections is not yet known.

Chronic Lyme disease is also known as persistent Lyme disease. It occurs in a patient who has been treated with antibiotics but continues to show signs and symptoms of the disease. This disease is also known as post-treatment Lyme disease. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10-20% of the patients who are treated with antibiotics continue to show signs and symptoms of even after completion of therapy. The symptoms include fatigability, joint pains, muscle pains, and memory problems. These symptoms can last for more than six months in some individuals. This is a serious problem among affected patients as it affects their normal daily activities.

The reason for these persisting infections is not yet known. According to Columbia University, patients should be treated individually according to their specific medical history and treatment. 

Causes of Chronic Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is found in infected deer ticks. These ticks are black-legged tiny ticks. They are the size of the head of a pin. They feed on human blood and increase in size. Not all ticks carry the bacterium. Only the ones that are infected will carry the bacterium. During a feed, they inject the bacteria into the blood. In addition to Borrelia burgdorferi, these ticks may also carry other organisms, which will also be injected into the human blood causing co-infection.

Treatment

The usual treatment of Lyme disease is a course of antibiotic treatment for a period of 10 to 14 days. This treatment is successful in most individuals. However, in a few people, the symptoms continue to persist. The cause for this remains unknown. Some experts believe that the immune system continues to respond to the infection; thus, producing the signs and symptoms. Others think that it is due to the persistent bacteria that remained dormant despite antibiotic therapy. 

What are the risk factors?

  • Any individual bitten by an infected deer tick is at a risk of developing chronic Lyme disease.
  • If you are not receiving the proper antibiotic treatment for the appropriate period of time, then there is a chance that you will continue to show signs and symptoms for a long time.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are similar to those of early stages of Lyme disease. Patients may experience episodes of fatigue, pain, joint or muscle aches, body pains, speech problems, and short-term memory problems.

What complications can arise?

Chronic Lyme disease can be a debilitating disease affecting the individual both mentally and physically. It can affect the mobility and the cognitive functions of an individual. This may add up to the emotional stress of these individuals as well.

Diagnosis

Once you consult a doctor, he/she will do several blood tests to diagnose the disease. The blood tests that are helpful in diagnosing Lyme disease are enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test and the western blot test. ELISA is most commonly used for diagnosing Lyme disease and the western blot test is used to confirm the ELISA results.

Although these will help in the diagnosis of Lyme disease, they will not help in determining the cause of the persisting symptoms. To find the cause for this, your doctor may order some extra tests, which include:

  • An electrocardiogram to assess the function of the heart.
  • MRI of the brain to look for brain damage.
  • Spinal tap to check the cerebrospinal fluid for infection.

Treating Chronic Lyme Disease

The exact cause for chronic Lyme disease is not known. Therefore, there is no specific treatment for the disease. The usual management of chronic Lyme disease focuses on how to relieve pain.