Do I Have Lyme Disease?

History and symptoms make the diagnosis

Exposure

  • If you have had history of tick bite, own a dog or cat that goes in and out of the house, are a gardener, live in Lyme endemic areas or camp, hunt, fish, ride your horse and hike in them or have had a summertime flu with a following chronic fatiguing illness the probability is high that you have had an exposure to Lyme-Borrelia, and/or the co-infections that are seen with it. If you have had a bull’s-eye rash at some time in the past that probability increases even further.
  • Some will have a history of a past tick bites, sometimes even treated with antibiotics but over time have had a gradual accumulation of symptoms.

Rash

  • Many will not have had a rash or witnessed a tick bite. The rash may not be a target shaped rash (with central clearing), but instead could be annular (a red circular patch). If a person has had multiple annular areas followed by onset of symptoms this could signify systemic erythema migrans, a Lyme-Borrealia infection throughout the body.

Co-Infections

  • Almost all will have co-infections: other tick-borne infections that will add strange symptom patterns.
  • These can be transmitted through the same bite or prior bites.
  • Just like testing for Lyme-borrelia, the tests for co-infections can be negative, but if there are symptoms of co-infections they should be treated.

Classic Symptoms and History

  • Classic symptoms of Lyme disease: Flu symptoms that come and go, joint pain that moves from joint to joint. Women will often have increased symptoms starting a few days before menses.
  • Classic history: A spring, summer or fall flu-like illness with persistent symptoms. Multiple visits to see your doctors, naturopath, specialists with resultant multiple blood tests, x-rays and treatments or diagnosis that lead to temporary or no improvement in symptoms.
  • Usually the person has seen multiple doctors: Rheumatologists, Neurologists, Infectious Disease specialists, Cardiologists, Pulmonary specialists, Dermatologists, Physiatrists, Gastroenterologists, Ear/Nose/Throat specialists, Psychiatrists.
  • And had multiple tests: Laboratory tests including those for Lyme disease, x-rays (CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds), upper and lower endoscopies, cardiac work ups including echocardiograms/ 24 hour holter monitor test/ stress tests, EMG, EEG, sleep studies, neuropsychological testing.
  • Those with chronic Lyme may be given diagnoses for: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Alzheimer’s Disease, scleroderma, lupus, Epstein Barr virus infection. Psychiatric diagnoses are common: anxiety, panic disorder, depression, anorexia nervosa, OCD, paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, ADD, ADHD.

Other Symptoms

  • Head: recurrent headaches, head pressure, odd sensations over the scalp, Bell’s palsy.
  • Eyes: Visual changes: blurring, cloudy vision, seeing forms that are not there, disrupted vision.
  • Ears: pain, loss of hearing, redness of the outside of the ear, tinnitus.
  • Throat: recurrent sore throat, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, fatigue when chewing.
  • Neck: enlarged lymph nodes, stiffness and muscle pain.
  • Chest: Shortness of breath, air hunger, constant yawning, rib pain.
  • Heart: rapid heart-beat, cardiac arrhythmias, chest pain, a sensation of feeling your heart beat hard against your ribs. Fainting or near fainting episodes. Sudden loss of exercise tolerance.
  • Gastrointestinal: Change in bowel habits: diarrhea, constipation which can be severe and unresponsive to treatment, loss of GI motility. Abdominal pain. Loss of appetite. Weight loss. Young children may complain of abdominal pain.
  • Musculoskeletal: Neck and back pain or stiffness. Worsening of chronic back or neck pain over sites of prior injuries. Bone, joint and muscle pain. The pain can be there all the time or migratory, going from one joint to the other. Muscle weakness. Joint swelling. Tendinopathies, ligamentopathies, neuropathies. Chronic pain syndromes. TMJ pain.
  • Neurological: Tremors, numbness, tingling, buzzing sensations. Sensitivity to sound, light or touch. Bell’s palsy. Weakness, loss of function. New onset of clumsiness: falls or walking into things, dropping things. Lightheaded, dizzy, woozy sensations. Cognitive impairment can be rapid and severe with inability to maintain employment, remember names of well-known people, forgetting what you are doing or where you are going, changes in speech patterns, odd word substitutions, onset of stuttering. Seizure like movements with a normal EEG and normal brain MRI.
  • Endocrine: change in menses, loss of libido, thyroid or adrenal issues sometimes occur.
  • Dermatological: Odd rashes, stretch marks, morphea, lichen sclerosis.
  • Psychiatric: sudden onset of ADD, ADHD symptoms, anxiety, panic attacks, severe mood swings, OCD symptoms, paranoia.

Comments on Symptoms

  • Symptoms tend to be persistent no matter what you do (rest, dietary change, increased or decreased exercise, medication prescriptions, supplements, herbals, meditation, lifestyle changes). The symptoms may come and go. The symptoms you have may not all fit the diagnosis you are given.
  • Symptoms can be varied and sometimes bizarre: pain on just one side of the body, intermittent symptoms that worsen with stress. Poor sleep, weight gain or loss, sudden mood changes, inability to tolerate stress, new clumsiness such as falling or walking into things, severe immobilizing knee pain that suddenly resolves in minutes. Visual changes- seeing odd forms in your visual field that come and go. Other sensory symptoms such as light or sound sensitivity, tingling, buzzing, prickling, crawling or biting sensations.
  • Children may have a change in behavior, mood swings, joint pain, joint swelling, abdominal pain, change in bowel patterns, new bed wetting, complain of fatigue, palpitations. Some children will develop multiple food allergies. It is common for children to miss many days of school and have learning problems, behavioural problems, difficulty with sleep.

    Infant: If the mother had untreated acute or chronic Lyme disease during pregnancy the baby may be born with poor muscle tone, poor suck, have failure to thrive and not reach developmental milestones. If babesia was transmitted to the fetus, the baby may be born with respiratory distress. Children born to mothers that were infected during pregnancy may have more severe symptoms.

    Young child: The child’s behavior and development may regress, there may be loss of vocabulary or difficulty with speech, they may not be able to toilet train easily.

    School age child: May have problems with learning or behavior and have multiple unexplained symptoms necessitating frequent doctors’ visits.

    The adolescent may show lethargy and disinterest or lack of engagement, a complete change of personality. Grades may drastically decrease. Some will have great difficulty with math or not be able to keep up with gymn class. Depression with suicidal behavior can occur and may not respond well to anti-depressants. They are a high suicide risk. Fatigue can be so limiting that they will not see their friends, continue sports or hobbies where they once excelled. They may have great difficulty learning how to drive.

Use our symptoms form for self-evaluation of symptoms.