What is Tick-Borne Illness/Lyme Disease?

Overview of Lyme Disease and Chronic Tick-Borne Infections

“Lyme Disease” and other associated infections are most commonly associated with tick bites. Lyme Disease, in particular, is associated with a bacteria called borrelia. Although Lyme Disease sometimes also can refer to other associated co-infections. It is not uncommon for patients to have more than one infection they may have received from one or more tick bites. Therefore, we commonly call the focus of our practice, “Tick-borne Illnesses.”

The same tick that carries the borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, can also transmit Babesia, Ehrlichia, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever (Rickettsia), and other disease causing pathogens. Although some transmission methods are still not firmly confirmed by research, there has been some evidence that indicates some Tick-Borne Infections can also be transmitted sexually, can cross the placenta to the fetus, and may also be in breast milk.

Lyme borrelia, in particular, seem to have the ability to avoid your body’s immune system, mutating into different forms, and even becoming dormant for long periods of time, only to activate as the result of an unrelated illness, injury, or traumatic event. Because of this, Lyme symptoms can develop days or months after initial infection. At different stages of the disease, these symptoms can mimic other diseases such as arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autism, depression, MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and others.

Many Tick-Borne Infections are a clinical diagnosis. This means that the physician makes the diagnosis using your clinical history and symptoms.  If the patient or physician observes a rash (Erythema Migrans rash), a diagnosis of Lyme disease can be made on that basis.  If a rash is not seen, laboratory tests may be helpful to confirm a diagnosis. Not everyone who contracts Lyme disease gets a rash. Some report that only about half of Lyme sufferers recall having a rash.

Several laboratory tests are available for Tick-Borne Infections, although none are 100% accurate. Many of the lab tests are based on your body’s antibody production against the infection. Because of the nature of longer term infections, your body’s antibody production may vary over time. This means it is possible to test negative and still have a Tick-Borne Infection.  However, it is also possible that some damage done from past infections could be causing ongoing symptoms as well.

Tick-Borne Infection can be a complex illness potentially complicated by multiple co-infections. If not treated early and effectively, it can become chronic and result in many complications that can damage virtually any body system. To recover, all of these issues must be addressed in a thorough and systematic manner. No single treatment or medication will necessarily result in full recovery, especially in the patient with long-term illness. Treatment can be a long-term process as a fuller understanding of the patient’s condition unfolds over time and appropriate treatment adjustments are made based on the patient response.

Additional information about Tick-Borne illnesses can be found on our Useful Links page and an abundance of Research studies related to Tick-Bornne Illnesses can also be referenced on our Research page.

For even more information, LymeDisease.org has complied a very good list on a variety of topics related to tick-borne illnesses.