Healthy Living

Lyme Disease and Multiple Sclerosis: What Is the Link?

Lyme Disease and Multiple Sclerosis: What Is the Link?

Key Takeaways

  • Multiple sclerosis and lyme disease are actually quite different in nature.
  • Due to the fact that these two diseases have symptoms in common, multiple sclerosis and lyme disease can often be confused with each other.
  • Multiple sclerosis is a disease caused by the human immune system, while lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection from a tick bite. 

Multiple sclerosis and lyme disease have similar symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, and numbness of the hands and legs. Although they share similar symptoms, these diseases are quite different in nature from each other. 

Lyme disease: what is it?

Lyme disease is the result of a tick bite. The tick bite leads to a bacterial infection that causes the disease. Deer ticks, also called blacklegged ticks, are the main tick species that carries the bacteria. This type of tick is so tiny (about the size of a sesame seed) that they are very difficult to spot. Many people who are diagnosed with lyme disease do not even recall or know that they were bitten a tick. The deer tick acts as a carrier for the bacteria known as borrelia burgdorferi, the organism that is responsible for lyme disease. Deer ticks become infected with these bacteria when they feed on infected mice. A deer tick must feed for at least 32 to 48 hours for its host to develop lyme disease. If the tick is removed from the body in less than 24 hours, the chances of developing lyme disease are minimal.

Lyme disease

The person who is attacked by lyme disease will feel intense body aches. The joints of the knees, elbows, and other joints will start swelling and be in pain. After some days, an infected person may not be able to move due to this disease. Lyme can also cause some mental problems. The patient might also hallucinate and start forgetting things. Thus, lyme disease leads to a large amount of memory loss. Even after treatment, the person could continue experiencing memory loss problems, aching joints, and tiredness for the next few weeks or even months.

Once the tick enters the body, the disease starts building up only after some time. Hence, at the initial stages, blood tests may yield a negative result even though the person has been already attacked by the bacteria.

Multiple sclerosis: what is it?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that is caused by the human immune system. In multiple sclerosis, the immune system begins to attack the insulating protective layer that surrounds nerve fibers, called the myelin sheath. Damage to the myelin sheath causes problems that produce various symptoms. The cause of multiple sclerosis is not yet completely understood, but experts do believe that environmental, genetic, and immunological factors come into play in the development of the disease. Multiple sclerosis is much related to the nervous system, which forms the backbone of a person's life.

MS

What are the symptoms of lyme disease?

  • The most obvious sign is a bullseye-shaped rash. However, only 50 percent of patients with lyme disease develop this and it is therefore an unreliable means for self-diagnosis.
  • Fever with chills
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Numbness
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulties with memory 

What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness of hands and legs
  • Generalized body weakness
  • Vision loss
  • Tingling sensation the body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Giddiness
  • Loss of sensitivity

MultipleSclerosis

Treating lyme disease

Lyme disease can be completely cured. The symptoms rarely persist, but they do occasionally come back even after a full course of treatment. This is known as post-treatment lyme disease syndrome. Lyme disease is generally treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline or amoxicillin. As of now, no vaccine has been developed to prevent the disease, and research is still going on in this field.

Treating multiple sclerosis

There is no definitive cure for multiple sclerosis. The treatment of multiple sclerosis aims to hasten recovery, slow down the disease's progression, and control its symptoms. The treatment of multiple sclerosis mainly rests on improving the nervous system. Various antibiotics and vaccines are given to patients so that the nerve tissue of the person’s nervous system gets repaired and his or her senses come back. Damage to the nervous system can prove fatal because the nervous system is the most important system that keeps us alive. Hence, it becomes very important to identify multiple sclerosis when it occurs as it involves many delicate matters of the body.

Why are lyme disease and multiple sclerosis often confused?

The causes of these two diseases are totally different from each other. One is caused due to a weakening of the nervous and the immune systems, and the other is caused by a bacterial infection in the body. Lyme disease attacks and weakens the entire body and also has some negative effects on the skin. Meanwhile, multiple sclerosis attacks the nervous system first and then starts affecting and weakening the entire body. The question arises as to why, then, is one disease often mistaken for the other. 

The answer is very simple. The main symptoms of both diseases are the same; hence, the person experiencing the symptoms will probably not know which disease he or she has. Also, a person with lyme disease likely does not realize he or she was bitten by a tick in the first place. Due to the similar symptoms that these two diseases share, multiple sclerosis and lyme disease are often confused with each other.

Nevertheless, there can be minute differences between them. For example, lyme disease can give a bullseye or blood clot-like rash on the body, which is not always the case in sclerosis. Due to medical and technological advancements, these minute differences can now be spotted through various blood tests, urine tests, MRA scans, etc.

It is very important to correctly identify which of the two diseases a patient has, because there might be a case where one antibiotic that is useful in curing lyme disease will prove to be of danger to the multiple sclerosis patient. To ensure proper treatment and intake of the correct medicines, the person who is experiencing symptoms has to keep undergoing various tests until which of the two diseases he or she has is identified with certainty. Wrong identification of a disease will lead to the patient's taking the wrong medicines, which, in turn, can harm the person's body and increase the chances of complications.