Lyme disease is one of the most insidious diseases in the world today. It is slowly but surely becoming a pandemic, infecting a suspected 300,000 people every year. Unfortunately, it also resides in a medical grey area, which has seen the chronic form of the disease come to be regarded as an outlier disorder. Despite this, many people are desperate for treatment options. The path to treatment for Lyme varies depending on which form of the disease you have: acute or chronic. Treating the latter is relatively simple, while treating the former is more of a challenge. But can your body fight off Lyme disease on its own? And what happens if Lyme disease is left untreated?
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This is spread through the bite of infected ticks – the black-legged tick in America and the dog tick in Europe. These ticks spread the bacteria through their saliva, and from there it takes hold in the host’s system. Not every tick carries the Borrelia bacteria, and not every bite from an infected tick results in Lyme. However, it’s hard to know exactly what bite will initiate the disease, and what won’t. Conventional wisdom says that the longer the tick is attached to the host, the more likelihood there is of a bite. However, there have also been cases of Borrelia bacteria being transferred from tick to host instantaneously.
Treating Acute Lyme
Acute Lyme comes on soon after the bite. It resembles the flu, with symptoms including fever, chills, headache, fatigue and general malaise. Acute Lyme can easily be written off as a bout of flu if the tick bite wasn’t noticed by the patient. There is one tell-tale symptom that conclusively indicates Lyme disease: a bullseye rash at the site of the bite. However, although this is present in the majority of cases, it’s not there in every single one. Also, confirmed diagnosis depends on the patient being aware that they have been bitten by a tick, which is not always the case. The good news, though, is that acute Lyme can be treated with short-course antibiotics as a first line of defence. This is often enough to dispel the infection completely.
Treating Chronic Lyme
Problems arise when acute Lyme recedes and re-emerges as chronic Lyme disease. Without treatment, the acute symptoms will disappear on their own, giving the illusion of recovery. However, the disease is still in the body; it has merely evolved and is set to reappear in the chronic form. Chronic Lyme is actually a relationship between two separate sets of symptoms: the underlying infections symptoms caused by the bacteria, and inflammation symptoms, which are caused by the body’s own response to the infection. Treatment requires tackling both these symptoms simultaneously. Antibiotics are needed for the infection, with nutritional therapy and natural supplements supporting the defective immune response. Many Lyme specialists propose long-term antibiotics in the case of chronic infection. This comes with its own set of issues, with potential toxicity problems for the body, and the threat of bacteria becoming too resistant to the antibiotics. In a general sense, too much antibiotic use can also cause patients to feel unwell, with symptoms including headaches, malaise and fatigue.
Can Lyme Be Treated Without Antibiotics?
In short, no. You need antibiotics to rid the body of the underlying infection. The immune system alone is not powerful enough to deal with an insidious pathogen like Borrelia burgdorferi. What antibiotics won’t help is the inflamed immune response. This needs to be tackled through nutritional regulation supported by specific supplements. The ratio of immune to inflammation symptoms is different for every patient. This is why you need a Lyme specialist in your corner – like Germany’s BCA-clinic, who understand the nature of chronic Lyme and can treat you accordingly. Unfortunately, as it stands in 2019, these kinds of specialists are few and far between.
Other treatments have been suggested throughout the years, in confluence with the standard antibiotic treatment. Acupuncture may help relieve pain and anxiety in many patients and might just help strengthen the immune system. A good old dose of regular exercise can help flood the body with heat and oxygen, two things Lyme dislikes. In addition to these treatments, supplements that include plenty of vitamin D, probiotics and omega fats can specifically help Lyme patients. As many of the palpable symptoms of Lyme originate from the inflammation of the body, especially the joints, an anti-inflammatory diet can help to stem the pain and mobility impairment that comes with this inflammation.
What Happens If Lyme Disease Is Left Untreated?
The outcome is different for each patient, but in most cases, the body will become hugely impaired on several levels. Muscle aches and pains may increase to the point of near-paralysis, and if the bacteria breach the blood-brain barrier, neurological complications can occur. If it encounters the heart or vagus nerve, cardiac issues can ensue, as well as CNS problems if it infiltrates the spinal fluid. As it stands, Lyme disease is a very hard disease to cure if it’s left untreated. However, if it’s noticed and diagnosed in its acute stage, recovery chance is very high. Whatever treatment path is required, antibiotics are certain to be a factor. Other treatments, like those listed above, can be hugely beneficial in a supplementary role, but will not override the dominant Borrelia infection.