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Alternative Medicine and Lyme Disease, Part 2

In its final stage, Lyme disease causes more severe problems, and may seriously affect the functioning of the heart and nervous system, as well as cause intense pain in the muscles and joints. In this stage Lyme disease mimics the symptoms of other chronic illnesses that affect the immune system and/or central nervous system, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), multiple sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gherig’s disease, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and mononucleosis.

In fact, Lyme disease is sometimes called the “great imitator” because its symptoms are similar to those of so many other conditions. Some symptoms of stage III, or chronic, Lyme disease include severe fatigue, impaired speech, facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy), drooping eyelids, hallucinations, and extreme light sensitivity. At this point the B. burgdoferi bacteria may have already caused serious damage to the body, such as permanent chronic rheumatoid arthritis in the joints, and Lyme carditis, a condition in which a malfunctioning arterial valve in the heart disrupts blood flow to the rest of the body. Lyme carditis can usually be cured if it is treated with massive doses of antibiotics; however, in some cases damage to the heart is permanent.

If infection with Lyme disease is suspected, the best course of action is to immediately seek help from a qualified physician. Lyme disease can be identified through a blood test, such as the ELISA test or the immunofluorescence assay (IFA) test, which screen the blood for the presence of antibodies to the B. burgdorferi bacteria. When Lyme disease is detected early, it is highly curable, and is treated with large doses of antibiotics, usually tetracycline or penicillin. In its later stages, Lyme disease is harder to treat and cure, because the bacteria have had time to spread and hide throughout the body.

Patients with advanced cases of Lyme disease may require intravenous antibiotic treatment and hospitalization, and even then there is a chance that symptoms may reoccur in time. In addition, long-term infection with Lyme disease can cause a permanent disruption in immune system function, which can lead to the development of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, even after the bacteria themselves are no longer present in the body.

In 1998 a vaccine against Lyme disease called LYMErix was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; however, this vaccination was recalled by the manufacturer in 2002 due to low demand. The vaccination was somewhat controversial because some claimed that receiving it caused them to experience neurological symptoms, and the use of the LYMErix vaccination was thought to leave the body vulnerable to the development of a permanent, antibiotic-resistant form of Lyme arthritis.

Alternative Medicine and Lyme Disease, Part 3

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