Lyme Disease

A Tick

How One Little Bug Bite Can Change
Your Life

Cathy, a young, healthy, and active adolescent, had an array of chronic symptoms for about 6 months:  fatigue and shortness of breath, memory issues and concentration problems, headaches, light sensitivity, joint pain, cough, appetite swings, gas & bloating due to certain foods, red eyes, blurred vision, excessive sweating or night sweats and mood swings.  About this time, she also began experiencing vibratory sensations which gradually became constant.  She described these as a continuous internal vibration (like a bee buzzing). It started in her arms, moved to her legs, and eventually her entire body. It was so severe that she was unable to sleep due to the continuous vibrations. 

Cathy’s parents took her to over 10 doctors. She had blood work, cat scans, spinal taps, EKG’s, EEG’s, and an upper and lower endoscopy. No one was able to find the root cause of the problem. She was evaluated by a neurologist who initially suspected possible demyelinating disease (Multiple Sclerosis) and recommended an MRI which turned out to be negative.

Finally, another doctor did more tests and took the time to see what the other doctors had missed. Cathy was diagnosed with Lyme disease. This doctor put her on 30 days of antibiotics and said she would be back to normal. Unfortunately, when the 30 days of antibiotics were over, she started to nose dive again.

With the environmental changes to global ecosystems in recent years, emerging pandemic disease outbreaks are more common and regular.  Ebola, West Nile, and Lyme disease are some of the vector-borne diseases which are transmitted through ticks, fleas, black flies, and mosquitos.  A vector is a carrier and transmits the disease along with bacteria, viruses, or parasites from animals like mice, rats, and squirrels to humans when they bite.

Lyme disease is the number one spreading vector-borne epidemic in the United States and Europe. The diagnosis can be evasive if the doctor has no prior experience with treating it since Lyme can “imitate” Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, autoimmune, and other psychiatric disorders.  A person may have it but not any symptoms and through blood transfusion, maternal-fetal transmission, or even sexual transmission unknowingly give it to someone else.  There are many patients who can’t get prompt diagnosis and treatment and become chronic to the point of not being able to go to school or can’t work. 

Lyme disease can manifest as an acute or chronic illness.  Acute symptoms include flu-like symptoms with fevers, fatigue, swollen glands, sore throat, nausea and vomiting, headaches, stiff neck, and photophobia (light sensitivity). In addition to these, chronic signs include neurological syndromes, autoimmune diseases with inflammation, chest pain and palpitations, depression and other psychological issues, painful eye syndromes such as conjunctivitis, retinitis and others….

Many other bacteria, parasites, and viruses can also be transmitted by fleas, mosquitos, and ticks. These are generally referred to as “co-infections” of Lyme disease.  The majority of patients with chronic Lyme disease have at least one co-infection.  A person with a co-infection generally experiences more severe illness, more symptoms, and a longer recovery.  One of the more common co-infections is Bartonellosis.

Bartonella bacteria live primarily inside the lining of the blood vessels and the resulting infection leads to a disease called Bartonellosis.  Ticks are the greatest source of human Bartonellosis infection, often accompanied by Lyme disease. Several species of Bartonella cause serious diseases in humans such as Cat Scratch Disease which can be transmitted to humans either by a tick or flea bite, or the scratch of an infected cat.  Patients may suffer relapses because Bartonella periodically cycles into red blood cells, which may provide a protective niche for the bacteria and tests for the bacteria may be negative one time and positive another.  This further complicates detection and diagnosis.

One of the other problems with treatment has to do with the lack of total consensus within the medical profession that Lyme disease even exists.  Many doctors refuse to accept the fact that the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, sequesters and hides in deep-seated tissues, such as ligaments, tendons, bone, brain, eye, and scar tissue. The usual treatment is a course of antibiotics for 2 weeks but is really only effective if caught in the first stage, if at all. Since the bacteria may have already spread throughout the body by the time treatment is sought, symptoms may disappear only to reappear later.

There are three stages of Lyme disease which can overlap and not all patients go through all three depending on when treatment has begun:

Stage 1: Early Localized (1 - 4 weeks)
Rash (erythema migrans), Flu-like symptoms, Lack of energy, Headache and stiff neck, Fever and Chills, Muscle and joint pain, Swollen lymph nodes

Stage 2: Early Disseminated (1 – 4 months)
Can affect the skin, joints, nervous system, and heart if not treated, Skin problems including expanding rash at bite site as well as additional rashes and/or swelling, Joint problems including redness, swelling, and migratory pain, Early nervous system problems including numbness in the arms and legs caused by nerve inflammation, Heart problems such as irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)

Stage 3: Late Persistent
Joint problems such as early arthritis (especially in the knees), Late nervous system problems such as pain, weakness, and numbness in the arms and legs due to bacteria spreading to the nerves and spinal cord, Can include headaches, fatigue, and problems with vision, hearing, memory, concentration, and thinking, Paralysis of nerves in the face (Bell’s Palsy), Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and tissues surrounding the brain (meningitis) and spinal cord, Heart problems such as inflammation of structures surrounding the heart (pericarditis)

Cathy came to us with all the symptoms of late-stage Lyme disease. Through various in-depth testing, we discovered she had two common co-infections of Lyme disease, Bartonellosis and Babesiosis. Through comprehensive testing, we found she suffered from immune dysfunction, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, various nutritional and enzyme deficiencies, toxicities (heavy metals, mold), and endocrine abnormalities.

Over the course of 2 yrs we established an individualized protocol with the aim of addressing infection, lowering inflammation, and restoring immune balance. 
Today Cathy lives as a young and vibrant teenager once again.

Tick-Borne Disease Prevention

Create a tick-safe zone at home:
Outdoors safety tips:
Remember, the goal is to PREVENT Lyme disease and co-infections.  Lyme disease, if caught early and treated appropriately does NOT have to go on to be a devastating chronic illness.
So what happens if your child gets a tick bite? The following 6 steps are summarized from Dr. Alexis Chesney’s book, " Preventing Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Diseases ."
Step 1: Immediately remove, identify the tick and put it in the plastic bag
Step 2: Apply first aid
Step 3: Have the tick tested for pathogens
Step 4: Begin the Herbal Prophylactic Protocol 
Step 5: Watch for symptoms
Step 6: Get tested (maybe)
Are antibiotics warranted?

Most Lyme-literate practitioners believe that a single dose of doxycycline has never been effective in preventing Lyme disease.

"Based on animal studies, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) recommends that known blacklegged tick bites be treated with 20 days of doxycycline (barring any contraindications)."

At least a 3-week course of antibiotics is needed to ensure that you kill Borrelia in all of its life forms (cell wall or spirochete form, cystic form or cell wall-deficient form, intracellular form, & biofilm persister form). By stopping antibiotics too early, you may not kill the Borrelia that is hiding out in its dormant cyst form and waiting for just the right moment to reactivate and convert to its free-floating spirochete form to cause trouble at a future date.

The antibiotic chosen may be herbal, pharmaceutical, or a combination of both. For adults, a 3-week course of doxycycline may be recommended. The now recommends “doxycycline as the treatment of choice for children all ages with suspected tick-borne rickettsial disease… Previous concerns about tooth staining in children less than 8 years stem from older tetracycline-class drugs that bind more readily to calcium than newer members of the drug class, such as doxycycline. ”Consider other alternative antibiotics for children such as amoxicillin, azithromycin, or cefuroxime axetil if photosensitivity develops with doxycycline. Be aware that chronic use of antibiotics can cause fungal overgrowth impacting their gut microbiome.

Herbal anti-microbials targeted to Lyme and co-infections can also be used alone or in combination with pharmaceutical antibiotics. I prefer using herbal antimicrobials due to persister forms & dna transformation of lyme disease that could promote antibiotic resistance. There is also less relapse when using herbs.

Stephen Buhner, a highly regarded Lyme herbalist, recommends the herb Astragalus to boost one’s immune system and prevent Lyme transmission. After a new tick bite, he recommends the adult dosage of 3000 mg daily for 30 days. For prevention, if you live in a highly endemic Lyme area and don’t want to be on antibiotics for the entire season, Buhner recommends that adults take Astragalus 1000 mg daily. For a 1 year old, you can add 10 drops of the tincture to their diet three times a day. Older children can be given larger doses, around 1/8 tsp, mixed in food daily. Immediately after a tick bite, Buhner has also found applying a topical paste made of Andrographis tincture and green clay to be helpful in preventing infection.

If you or your child gets bitten by a tick, please discuss what antimicrobial regimen is best with your physician or a Lyme-literate practitioner.
Knowledge is power, and prevention is key!
Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy summer, and don’t be afraid to enjoy the great outdoors!

Lyme Disease Association (LDA) has a pamphlet written especially for parents and educators called the ABC's of Lyme Disease. This pamphlet contains information from experts on the impact of Lyme disease on children’s education, and hundreds of thousands have been distributed. 

The LDA also has Tickles a prevention video, in the “Lyme, Kids and Schools” website section.

National Capital Lyme Disease Association (NatCapLyme) also has an educational and awareness outreach campaign for children and adults called Tick Busters: Wanted Dead or Alive.   This year their focus is on an awareness and prevention educational program targeting children since they are the most vulnerable population given they play outdoors extensively.

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The purpose of this website is informational only. If you need medical advice, please consult directly with Dr. Ruiz or another qualified health practitioner directly.