So what is Lyme disease?
If you are reading this blog, you are likely aware that Lyme Disease is a political hot spot and rife for controversy. There are many many articles and publications on both sides of the debate. Discover Magazine published yet another one of these articles in the December 2013 issue.
However, a question that is essential to answer comes up all too frequently.
What is Lyme Disease?
We know that Borrelia burgdorferi, or perhaps other Borrelia species, are associated with Lyme Disease. However, an infection with Borrelia would better be described as Borreliosis. Acute Borreliosis is often easier to treat with shorter courses of antibiotics and high success.
I follow the ILADS guidelines for treatment in these cases. I prefer to use antibiotics for two to three months with a confirmed infection. Or if I’m treating a person who had a Borrelia positive deer tick bite, that has been attached for a significant amount of time.
Borrelia has the ability to change some people’s immune systems. I discussed on my Lyme Disease page that Borrelia can switch some people’s immune system from antibodies to cell mediated immunity. When your immune system is tricked from fighting with antibody to attacking with immune cells, this can make the treatment less effective. Lack of antibodies also makes the standard two tier antibody testing entirely inaccurate.
Borrelia changes your immune system. You may think of inflammation as red, hot, inflamed, swollen and cranky, but those are symptoms of inflammation. Inflammation is the conversation your immune system is having. If Borrelia can change the conversation your immune system is having, that means it can change the way you fight infections and mediate inflammation in general.
Lyme Disease is the combination of a Borrelia infection, plus what Borrelia does to your immune system. In addition anything else that causes you inflammation including other infections or immune modulators. You may be inflamed by exercise, chemical exposures, other infections, heavy metal toxicity, autoimmune problems and many other things. Borrelia changes what you do with the inflammation to all those other things as well.
That’s why it takes individualized treatments to treat Lyme Disease. Lyme disease has to do with you! It has to do with what your immune system is doing, and whatever else is causing you inflammation…plus Borreliosis. If you don’t address all of those factors at the same time, you aren’t treating Lyme Disease.
In medicine, we tend to think of statistics and generalization. One of the great problems of Lyme Disease is how person specific it is. We can’t generalize. When we try to break people into populations for studies ,we fail miserably with Borrelia. Each person has their own Lyme Disease and that is confounding the doctors, the patients and the politics.