February 27, 2019
A person that has been diagnosed with Lyme disease and receives treatment in the early stages has a good chance of a full, speedy recovery. However, when left untreated, Lyme disease can spread beyond the infection site to cause more serious health conditions including arthritis, meningitis, and Bell’s palsy. Knowing your options for Lyme disease treatment can help you make an informed decision so you or a loved one can experience the best possible health outcome. Our infectious disease physicians will work with you one-on-one to choose the best treatment.
What Causes Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by four types of bacteria: Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia mayonii, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii. These bacteria can be transmitted by infected deer ticks.
In the U.S., deer ticks are most prevalent in Northeastern states like Maine, North-central states like Minnesota, and in Northwest states like Washington. However, infected deer ticks have spread across the entire U.S. within the last 10 years and are now in nearly every state — including North Texas.
You may be at higher risk for Lyme disease if you spend lots of time in tick-infested areas like heavily wooded forests and tall grasses.
What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
The earliest symptoms of Lyme disease may begin to appear in a few days to several weeks after infection. This is known as early localized Lyme disease or Stage 1. These symptoms are similar to the flu and include fever, chills, headache, and joint and muscle pain.
Symptoms that show up after the first 30 days can indicate early disseminated Lyme disease classified as Stage 2. These symptoms include paralysis or muscle weakness in the face, nerve pain or numbness, and heart problems such as chest pain and palpitations.
Symptoms that show up months or years after infection can indicate late disseminated Lyme disease classified as Stage 3. Arthritis is the most common symptom of Stage 3. Other symptoms may include speech and cognitive problems, muscle weakness, and abnormal muscle movement.
How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
Lyme disease can be diagnosed by a family care physician, primary care physician, or an infectious disease specialist. These doctors can perform a series of lab tests to detect antibodies to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The most common lab test used to diagnose Lyme disease is a blood test called the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test, or ELISA test.
If you live in an area where Lyme disease is highly common and prevalent, your doctor may be able to diagnose this disease with only a physical examination. Other tests that can be used to diagnose the disease include an electrocardiogram, MRI, echocardiogram, and spinal tap.
Available Treatments for Lyme Disease
Antibiotics are the most common Lyme disease treatment because they help the patient experience a faster recovery compared to most other treatments. The treatment regimen prescribed by your doctor may include either oral antibiotics or intravenous antibiotics.
Oral antibiotics may be given to someone within 72 hours of being bitten by an infected deer tick. These medications are doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime. Treatment regimens may last anywhere between 10 and 28 days depending on factors such as the choice of drug, symptoms, and the stage of Lyme disease.
Intravenous antibiotics may be administered if Lyme disease has started affecting the central nervous system. Treatment using intravenous antibiotics can last anywhere between 14 and 28 days; potential side effects include diarrhea and a lower white blood cell count.
Lyme disease can also be treated using a range of alternative therapies, though many of these methods are not proven or approved by the FDA. For instance, essential oils including oregano, cinnamon bark, and clove bud are found effective at killing Borrelia burgdorferi without regrowth. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is considered to be effective at treating chronic Lyme disease in patients who don’t respond to treatment with antibiotics.
UV light therapy, nutritional supplementation, and photon therapy are other alternative Lyme disease treatments; however, many of these treatments lack scientific research to back their effectiveness.
At Healthcare Associates of Texas, we understand the seriousness of infectious and rare diseases and are devoted to helping you find the safest Lyme disease treatment. Our team of primary care doctors and infectious disease physicians will work with you one on one to ensure you receive the highest quality personalized care and treatment. Schedule an appointment or call us today at (972) 258-7499.