Lyme disease can cause many alarming and debilitating symptoms. The disease is not well understood by many in the medical field, and it doesn’t help that its symptoms are generalised and non-specific. In addition, Lyme can affect people differently. Some people might be slightly bothered by symptoms, while others will be rendered almost incapacitated. For a disease that isn’t officially recognised in mainstream medicine, this is a particularly dangerous aspect. Misdiagnosis rates surrounding Lyme are extremely high; illnesses that Lyme is commonly confused for include other chronic disorders such as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. Because of the generalised symptoms, doctors often reach for another disorder first. But what about more specific symptoms, like seizures? Can Lyme disease cause seizures? And if so, what are the effects of Lyme disease on the brain?
Lyme disease attacking the brain is, of course, an extremely worrying proposition. But Lyme doesn’t start out so aggressively; in its initial stages, it can actually present as surprisingly mild. When we talk about Lyme disease, we are in essence talking about two separate conditions. They are both caused by the same Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, transferred via tick bite; but the manifestations are so contrasting that they should be considered separately from one another. The initial stage, called acute Lyme, presents itself a few weeks after the infection. It often resembles a standard response to infection, and produces symptoms like fever, chills, headache and fatigue. The tell-tale symptom that positively identifies Lyme is a bullseye rash, which forms around the site of the bite. However, this is often easily missed.
You might think it’s simple to detect a tick bite, but ticks do everything in their power to go unnoticed – including searching for the most secluded bite spots on the body, and utilising a numbing agent so the host doesn’t feel the bite. The end result is that the tick bite can all too often be missed completely; the tick drops off, leaving the Borrelia bacteria behind. After the acute symptoms dissipate, the chronic stage will emerge sometime after. The chronic stage of Lyme is the problematic stage. While the acute form can be successfully treated with antibiotics and doesn’t cause too many debilitating symptoms, chronic Lyme is much more difficult to treat, and can often plague patients for years.
Many medical professionals are not Lyme-literate and so don’t know what they’re looking for when it comes to the disease. This is not helped by Lyme’s ‘grey area’ status as a controversial disorder. But the fact is simple: Lyme disease can be very dangerous. The most common symptoms reported by patients include joint pain, muscle aches and fatigue. These are primarily a result of the immune system firing on all cylinders, struggling to rid the body of the Borrelia infection. The result is a constantly inflamed immune system, which produces debilitating daily symptoms for patients. This is one aspect of chronic Lyme, but it is perhaps not the most dangerous. If the bacteria breaches the blood-brain barrier, patients can suffer from a subset of the disease known as neuroborreliosis.
This extremely dangerous disorder can cause a number of central nervous system complications. One of them is seizures. Traditionally, seizures are so far removed from the common symptoms of Lyme disease that very few medical professionals would ever link the two. Yet there have been documented cases of patients presenting with seizures, caused by a Borrelia infection in the brain. This infection is particularly alarming – it can present issues such as depression, tremors, psychosis, hallucinations, anxiety, cognitive impairment and short-term memory loss. These are significant symptoms that demand to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, only those well-versed in Lyme disease, like BCA-clinic, know what to look for when it comes to the myriad symptoms associated with this insidious disease.
If someone near you is having a seizure, there are a few things you can do to help them through. Most seizures end on their own and aren’t life-threatening, but the people having them can be a danger to themselves and others around them. The first thing to do is to protect the person from injury by removing any potentially harmful objects from nearby, and cushioning their head. Help their breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position, making sure not to restrict their movements. Do not try to move them completely unless they are in danger, and do not put anything in their mouth, which may restrict their breathing. If you have a chance, time how long their seizing lasts, and try to verbally keep them calm. If this is their first seizure that you know of, or if the seizure continues for longer than five minutes, call an ambulance.
Neuroborreliosis is still unknown territory in many ways – but we do know that the effects of Lyme on the brain can be disturbing, debilitating and even potentially fatal. Seizures are only a small component of this concerning aspect of Lyme. It’s incredibly important to keep up the research on this front and examine the spectrum of ways that Lyme disease can damage us. Only then can we get a complete picture and treat patients accordingly.