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Lyme disease is an illness that has been popping up with greater frequency in the news. There is some disagreement and confusion as to how widespread this disease is, and how serious the condition can become.
What is Lyme disease? It is an infection that is spread by ticks that carry the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete (spiral-shaped bacteria). Chipmunks, shrews, mice and a wide variety of birds can all be carriers of B. burgdorferi.
According to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) there are five subspecies of B. burgdorferi, with over 100 strains appearing in the United States. To make identification of Lyme disease even more difficult, many organs can be affected by the spirochetes. Consequently Lyme disease symptoms come in a variety of forms.
Lyme disease symptoms in humans may be mistaken for a number of other diseases, including lupus, dementia, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromalgia and Parkinson's disease. If you have any type of mysterious multisystem disorder that seems to be eluding diagnosis, Lyme disease should be considered and tested for.
Some, though by no means all, recipients of a tick bite may find the classic Lyme disease rash which shows up in the infamous shape of a bull's eye. But it is important to be aware that it is entirely possible to have Lyme disease without ever seeing any sign of a rash.
If a bull's eye rash is not always present, and if the disease can present in so many ways, how can this disease be recognized?
ILADS recommends the performance of a Western blot test that reads and evaluates all bands that are linked to B. burgdorferi. This testing can reveal Lyme antibodies as well as chronic Lyme infection.
The nervous system can be affected, manifesting in depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Sleep can be disrupted, and the brain's ability to think and process can break down. Headaches and stiff neck can be evidence of infection.
The sufferer may become lightheaded, experiencing tingling, numbness and twitching in the muscles. Hypersensitivity to sound and light may occur along with tinnitis, or ringing in the ears.