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Inflammation Vs. Infection in Lyme Disease

The medical community at large understands very little about Lyme disease. This has been proven time and time again by a slew of misdiagnoses, derision, suspicion, ridicule and accusation aimed at chronic Lyme sufferers, and this is even before the actual treatment of the condition has begun. Even then, Lyme is a particularly difficult disorder to combat, as the severity of the symptoms depends on how long it’s been in the body. Not only that, but Lyme disease changes its symptoms over time, starting out as flu-like in the acute stage, before progressing to a series of debilitating chronic ailments.


The initial transmission of Lyme comes through specific types of ticks found in wooded areas that attach themselves to humans. The bacteria crosses into a person’s system via the tick bite, where it initially produces flu-like symptoms, before settling into the body and causing all sorts of havoc. In fact, the longer Lyme lasts, the more insidious the infection becomes, and the more dangerous it becomes for the patient. It’s relatively easy to treat in its acute stages, where a course of antibiotics will usually clear it up; but because Lyme is so hard to spot early on, many patients don’t notice they are infected in time. Symptoms might not rear their head until many months or even years later, and by that time, the disease has reached its chronic form, where it can often be mistaken for another disorder entirely.


But treating Lyme in its chronic form can present a major challenge for doctors, even if they’re ‘Lyme-literate’. It’s unknown where many of the symptoms stem from; of course, the bacteria are responsible for them on a base level, but the specific symptoms can vary from patient to patient, and largely depends on how their immune system reacts to the invasion. This is a critical part of understanding Lyme. The symptoms and danger to patients don’t just come from the standalone infection; they also arise from the patient’s response to the infection.


BCA-clinic - doctor lab
Organisations such as BCA-clinic are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge surrounding Lyme disease and its effects on patients.


So how exactly does a patient’s own body contribute to their debilitating condition? The answer can be found in the response of the automatic immune system. A good parallel to draw here is with the common cold. Almost everyone knows the symptoms of a cold; congestion, a runny nose, headaches, stiffness, fever and a general sense of malaise. However, it’s not the infection that causes these irritating and debilitating symptoms, but the body’s response to them, which comes in the form of inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s automatic reaction to anything it registers in the system that it perceives as foreign. It basically indicates that the body is fighting something harmful and is trying to heal itself, but although it may have the best of intentions, unfortunately it often ends up harming the person more than the actual infection.


When it comes to common cold, it usually takes the body a couple of days to see of the harmful virus, and the body returns to normal fairly quickly. However, with chronic Lyme disease, the harmful bacteria becomes far too entrenched in the system to eradicate cleanly, leaving sufferers trapped in a perpetual cycle of debilitating pain and inflammation. Ironically, most of the symptoms of Lyme are caused by the body itself, trapped in a fight it can never win. This is why it is absolutely crucial to catch Lyme early, as there is a high chance of combating the infection in its early stages.


BCA-clinic - doctor computer
Understanding the difference between inflammation and infection is crucial in fighting Lyme disease.


Lyme is already misunderstood by many doctors and patients alike. It’s important to make the distinction between the pathogen (the bacteria transmitted by tick bites) and the actual disease (the symptoms caused by the body’s response). The amount someone sufferers from the residual effects of Lyme is not dependent on how much bacteria is in their system, but rather how their body reacts to the bacteria. This is why different patients can have wildly differing reactions to Lyme, and present with varying (sometimes wildly varying) symptoms. It also explains why Lyme is so hard to treat in the chronic stages; because the severity of the disease doesn’t necessarily correlate with how much bacteria is in the system, it’s possible to eradicate many of the bacteria with antibiotics, but not lessen the severity of the symptoms. This is because the body’s immune mechanics will still try and fight trace bacteria with the same intensity, prolonging symptoms and making any progress seem negligible.


When it comes to Lyme disease, it’s so important to know exactly what you’re fighting, and the toll the virus is taking on your body. There are many blind alleys and dead ends that come with the Lyme territory. Many doctors are not well-versed in Lyme, making it important that you consult specialists like BCA Clinic, who are seasoned veterans when it comes to the treatment of tick-borne diseases. Once you understand what is happening to your body and why, the disease becomes a lot less intimidating, leaving you to fully focus on recovering your health.