Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by a bite from a tick infected with the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi. It is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. Lyme disease has been found in every state in the United States, with the most prevalent areas being the east coast and Midwest. It is estimated that there are approximately 400,000 new cases of Lyme disease per year.
The borrelia bacteria can settle in many different parts of the body, including dermatologic, cardiac, musculoskeletal, and neurological systems. Lyme disease that has penetrated the nervous system is referred to as Lyme neuroborreliosis (LNB) or what you may know colloquially as neurological Lyme disease.
In this article, we will go in-depth on the symptoms and treatment of Lyme neuroborreliosis.
Symptoms of Neurological Lyme Disease
In some cases, individuals who contract Lyme disease develop a red rash that appears in the shape of a bullseye. Often times though, no rash is present, and one may not even see or find the tick that has bitten them. What’s worse is that approximately 10 to 15% of individuals who contract Lyme disease will have neurological involvement.
In any case of facial palsy (Bell’s palsy), or severe neurological inflammation, it is my recommendation that an individual be properly tested for Lyme disease. Diagnosing Lyme disease can be tricky due to the fact that borrelia can evade or ‘hide from’ the immune system.
That being said, diagnosis is based on signs and symptoms, history, exposures, presentation, and epidemiology. Lyme disease can sometimes be a clinical diagnosis rather than a positive test result due to Borrelia’s nature to evade the immune system.
What Makes Neurological Lyme Disease Different?
Neurological Lyme disease, or neuroborreliosis, is a neurological manifestation of Lyme disease. This occurs when borrelia (the bacteria causing Lyme disease) affects either the peripheral or central nervous system. Borrelia often reaches the nervous system very early during infection during meningeal seeding.
Oftentimes, associated symptoms will include facial drooping or bells palsy, meningitis, radiculoneuritis, visual disturbances, brain inflammation, dizziness, weakness, pain, and other symptoms of the nervous system.
If an individual has Lyme disease and experiences one or some of the above symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that Lyme has penetrated their central nervous system. Sometimes these symptoms can also occur due to systemic inflammation related to infection.
Neurological Lyme Disease Treatment
The typical first line of treatment for neuroborreliosis is antibiotic therapy. While many studies show similar effectiveness between oral and injectable or intravenous antibiotics, there are some indications in which the latter may be a more advantageous route for an individual.
That said, it’s important to start with oral antibiotics when tolerated due to the increased risk factors that come along with injected antibiotics. Any time a PICC line is required, there is an increased risk for things like infection and blood clots. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to work with a Lyme-literate provider.
Weighing these pros and cons and deciding on the best treatment plan for your individual case is essential to long-term healing.
If neurological symptoms are present, but antibiotic therapy is failing, there are a few things to consider. If the infection has been present for many years in a dormant state, sometimes it can be more difficult for antibiotics to do their job effectively.
In these situations, certain herbal therapies or IV therapies like ozone therapy may be more effective or act as complementary tools to antibiotics. Additionally, it’s important to be sure that we’re ruling out all causes of neurological inflammation. Many times, toxin exposure can also cause severe neurological symptoms. It is, in fact, possible for an individual to have Lyme disease and also be holding on to an environmental toxin like mold mycotoxins or heavy metals simultaneously.
Likewise, if you’ve been treating neuroborreliosis without improvement, ensure that you’re exploring all of the differential diagnoses or other potential diagnoses that are potentially being overlooked.
Lastly, it’s important to consider that if you have Lyme disease and severe neurological symptoms, you may have contracted a ‘co-infection’ of Lyme disease, and this may be what’s penetrating your nervous system. In these situations, the antibiotics to target the specific infection may vary from traditional Lyme treatment.
Work with Peak Health Institute
Working with a Lyme-literate provider is essential when dealing with Lyme disease. This is a very nuanced and complicated infection. Many primary care providers are not well versed in treating tick-borne infections, and in some situations, infectious disease specialists are also not as well versed specifically on tick borne infections.
As always, we encourage you to be the CEO of your health. Advocate for yourself and your loved ones. If you are exhibiting symptoms of neuroborreliosis but not being taken seriously, establishing care with a Lyme-literate provider is likely the step you need to bring you to a place of remission and healing. Contact us here!