Lyme Disease – The New All-round Challenge

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Growing up and living in Germany I heard the first time about tick-borne illnesses over 20 years ago, especially tick-borne encephalitis and lyme disease. However, they seemed to be rare and treatable, so I never worried too much about them.

Now this.

Contracting Lyme Disease Working Outdoors

My husband loves the outdoors and environmental work. He has been working in a local wildlife refuge as a ranger for the last 13 years. He had many tick bites over the years. We live in Southern Alabama. My husband’s journey with tick-borne illness started 3 years ago with a tick bite that got infected. We noticed a red, ring-shaped rash forming combined with itching and swelling within 24 hours. Some 3 or 4 days later he experienced chills, developed fever and complained about an aching body. It was obvious that he was dealing with some form of infection and he went to the doctor. He received doxycycline (tetracycline) for two weeks, which is an antibiotic to treat early lyme disease. We thought that we caught it early enough and would be good. If only we would have known that the treatment wasn’t long enough, and he wouldn’t have to work in the woods where he got many more tick bites over the course of the next three years. The majority never showed the red ring or rash around the bite location.

About two years ago he began to feel run down, exhausted after only short time of physical activity. He continued working his daily pensum anyway. But the aching in his limbs came back and was soon accompanied by cramps, twitching, and irregular heart beats. He even ended up driving himself from work to the ER fearing he experienced a heart attack. Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night with dramatic irregular heart beats, difficulties breathing due to seizures, and a feeling of tightness in his chest, and tingling in his arms. He got checked and his heart appeared to be healthy every time. Yet, the symptoms prevailed and got more intense with every repetition. As if this wouldn’t have been scary enough yet, about one year ago he started suffering from depression and anxiety. Lyme disease is known to affect the nervous system. The effect on his and our quality of life was undeniable. When I met my husband first, I said often how much I loved it that he made me feel so safe and calm at night because he would sleep like a baby. Now he wakes up three to four times every night, tossing around for hours. 

Symptoms Of Early Lyme Disease:

  • red rash, bull’s eye, red ring around bite
  • swelling, itching, sometimes bite mark itself looking infected
  • fevers, chills
  • feeling achy, pain in muscles, back pain

Symptoms Of Late Lyme Disease:

  • irregular heart beat
  • muscle spasms, cramps
  • tingling in limbs
  • feeling achy and run down
  • depression, sleeping disorders
  • anxiety
  • brain fog, unable to focus
  • headaches, meningitis
  • nausea, pain in stomach area

Find A Symptom Checklist Here:

https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-disease-symptom-checklist/

The Journey Continues

My husband’s story doesn’t end here. He continues to work outdoors, and had several tick bites again this year. About two months ago, we found a big deer tick on his lower belly, and about six weeks ago one smaller dark tick on his thigh. We aren’t sure if it was an American dog tick or a Lone Star tick, or a deer tick in seed tick state. He found more ticks on himself, but these two bites got infected. Both were itchy, swollen, and developed a red rash that lasted for over a week. About three weeks after the first tick bite, my hubby started getting fever, chills, feeling achy again. He described it similar to what it feels like to come down with the flu just without any stuffy nose or cough. Three or four days later he felt better, only to about one week later develop fevers and chills again. This time they were accompanied by extreme headaches, pain in his throat, difficulties swallowing even soft food, pain in his eyes and from behind his eye balls. He felt fatigued, brain-fogged. His short-term memory was pretty much zero. His muscles started cramping worse than usual, with added joint pain, twitching, cramps in his stomach, feelings of nausea, and shortness of breath. He described the headaches as the most debilitating of all the symptoms. At night he started sweating, changing t-shirts up to three times per night because they got dripping wet. He was running fevers for three and a half weeks in a row day and night. He described himself as feeling unplugged. My usually always active, always hard working husband was laying on the sofa, hardly able to get simple things done. We were left guessing if he was suffering from late-symptom Lyme related meningitis or had caught a new tick-borne encephalitis related to the acute fever. One more thing that really added to him feeling miserable was a drastic weight loss. Within one month he lost about 25 pounds. He is of very slim stature and was really trying to gain weight, which seemed impossible with the constant sickness in his body and the intense sweating.

How Can These Conditions Be Treated?

My husband is a real trooper. He hardly ever complains, until it gets really bad. We went to several doctors. Here in Southern Alabama, the first doctor wouldn’t even acknowledge that there is Lyme disease in this area. He even said that there wouldn’t live deer ticks in this area. Well, wrong! We got referred to a neurologist because of the depression and anxiety. Next we went to another physician who asked almost in disbelief, if my husband would really experience all the symptoms stated at the time of the visit. He referred us to an infectious disease specialist. We had to wait for this appointment another five days. He seemed knowledgable and started blood work only to tell us that the results would get back from the lab in two weeks. Two more weeks – while every trustworthy source on the internet says that treatment needs to start as soon as possible in order to be successful and avoid chronic, long-term damage to heart, kidneys, and nervous system? 

So, once lyme disease is diagnosed, medical doctors often prescribe two different antibiotics at the same time, trying to kill the borrelia bacteria at different stages of their life cycle within the body of the patient. These antibiotic treatments have to be taken for up to four months at pretty high doses. We are still waiting for our doctor to make recommendation in this regard. Until then …

I was not willing to wait any longer, and started a home-regimen with my husband. I would have him:

  • take zinc (30mg/day) and selenium (600 mcg/day) supplements to boost his immune system
  • take teasel root tincture daily (2 Tsp) to drive out borrelia bacteria
  • sit out in the sun daily to produce vitamin D for immune support
  • drink fresh smoothies made from organic fruit enhanced with flax meal, hemp oil, spirulina and chlorella, pomegranate powder to help with detox while simultaneously increasing vitamin and omega 3/6 intake, and supporting an alkaline environment in his system
  • eat raw garlic (1 to 2 cloves per day) for its antibacterial properties
  • take daily epsom salt baths to boost magnesium levels to ease the muscle spasms
  • take weekly baths with decahydrate borax to help drive out the bacteria
  • take purified silver solution daily (2-3 Tsp) for its antibacterial and antiviral properties
  • receive reiki two to three times per week (45 minutes each session) to ease pain, anxiety, and cramps
  • lay on my biomat daily (30 to 60 minutes each session) to ease spasms and pain
  • see a dentist to replace all amalgam fillings with white fillings to start detoxing from mercury
  • eat organic only, stay away from sugar, stay low on caffein
  • drink kombucha (home made) with fresh ginger, and water kefir to enhance probiotic cultures in his guts
  • drink herbal teas including lemongrass, lemon balm, ginger-lemon, nettle, jiaogulan, and ashwagandha plus stevia(!).

    

After about 7 days these measurements started kicking in. The fevers ceased. So did the night sweats, chills, body aches, nausea, and throat pain. 

So far, teasel tincture had the most noticable effect on reducing cramps and nausea, and reiki in combination with the biomat was the most effective treatment to help manage the pain. If you need help coping with pain, sleep disruption, or anxiety, you can Schedule A Reiki Session Here.

Ticks Species and Diseases They Carry

Here in Alabama four tick species are endemic: American dog ticks, blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks), Lone Star ticks and brown dog ticks. Different kinds of ticks carry different diseases. The brown dog tick mainly carries infections that affect dogs, but lone star ticks carry tularemia and Lyme disease. The American dog tick carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, and the blacklegged ticks are the primary carriers of Lyme disease and also carry human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Since the different kinds of ticks are very hard to identify at different stages, all ticks should be considered dangers. Tick bites may further cause anaplasmosis, babesiosis, rickettsiosis, Southern tick-associated rash illness, heartland virus, and tularemia. You may think, I’ve never heard of any of these diseases before. They can’t be that common. Think again! Tick diseases are exploding. Reports of tick-borne Lyme disease, a problem in the northern tier of states, have increased more than 100 percent in the past 10 years, making it the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S. (far more common than mosquito-borne diseases, by the way). Reports of Rocky Mountain spotted tick fever, now common in Alabama, have increased 5-fold in the same time. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Sometimes symptoms show up 24 to 72 hours after the bite, but it is also possible that symptoms show up weeks or even months later.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a map on their website showing a low risk of Lyme disease for most of Alabama and no or minimal risk in some far north areas. That really surprised me since everyone I talked with seemed to know someone who had tested positive for Lyme disease.

The blood test for Lyme disease will not work for several weeks after the infection starts, but let your doctor know if you have symptoms and have been bitten by a tick. The test sometimes has false negatives, meaning you may have Lyme disease but the test still indicates you do not have it. It is best to seek a specialists in infectious diseases, or, if you can find one, a doctor specializing in Lyme disease treatment.

Don’t let your symptoms go untreated — the sooner you get treatment the better your chances of getting over it. Left untreated, Lyme disease could cause serious health problems.

Tick species in Alabama:

American dog tick, photo credit: TAMU Tickapp

American dog tick: Most common in the Piedmont area. Transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever but NOT Lyme disease.

 

 

browndogtick_UF

Brown dog tick, photo credit University of Florida

Brown dog tick: Rarely attacks people but is common on dogs. They like to climb up draperies and walls. They’re found throughout the country, so you’ll encounter them wherever you go. Transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

 

 

 

 

 

Lonestartick_OSULone star tick, male and female
Credit: Oklahoma State University

Lone Star tick: These attack people, deer and dogs. Adults and nymphs are around in the spring and summer; the larvae are out in the fall. It can be found mostly in the coastal plain but is also found in the piedmont. The larvae, called seed ticks, prefer humans. These ticks cause Southern Tick Associated Rash Infection, or STARI. The Lone Star tick also causes erhlichiosis.


blacklegged tick_CDC

blacklegged tick, female, male and previous life stages
Credit: Centers for Disease Control

Blacklegged tick: Adults attack dogs and deer. Also known as the deer tick. Adults are active in late fall, spring and early winter. Transmits Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan disease.

 

gulf coast tick_tickinfo

Gulf coast tick
Tickinfo.com

Gulf Coast tick: This tick is also present in the Southeast closer to the coast but is more widely prevalent in Alabama. Adult ticks feed on deer. This tick transmits Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever.

For more information on tick species in the Southern states of the USA look here: http://schoolipm.tamu.edu/2016/07/14/ticks-to-look-out-for-by-southern-states/

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