Confusion, controversy hinders Lyme diagnoses  

This is the first of a three-part series on controversies over diagnosing and treating Lyme disease.  This week will focus on diagnosis:

By Megan S. Smith
Special to the Rappahannock News

The confusion and controversies swarming around tick-borne Lyme disease – now on the rise in the U.S. – can be summed up in a U.S. Naval adage:  “Those fore go aft, those aft go fore, and those in the middle mill around.”

The patient in pain, the doctor in white, the government’s Centers on Disease Control and Prevention, the omnipotent insurance and pharmaceutical companies – everyone has a dog in this fight, it seems, and the dogs, meanwhile, carry the dreaded, Lyme-infected deer tick indoors.

Many of the controversies over the clever, spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi are all encompassing, and most are covered in the documentary “Under Our Skin,” being screened for free at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Theatre at Washington.

The questions and confusion span the gamut of diagnosis, testing and treatment – and can force a Lyme patient, who simply wants correct diagnosis and quick treatment, to oftentimes endure severe suffering while the medical community remains largely divided over empirical answers.

There is “big controversy [over] Lyme,” stated Dr. Tom Connally, retired Sibley Hospital internist speaking at the April 15 Lyme Forum in Washington, Va.  One problem, he said, is a doctor’s desire for hard evidence versus relying solely on patient complaints.

Diagnosis is difficult unless the patient arrives at a doctor’s office with one or both “objective” diagnostic tools:  the tell-tale bull’s eye Lyme rash or a body having produced enough antibodies that a forthcoming Lyme test proves positive.  This “early-phase Lyme” patient should feel lucky in that, treated with antibiotics for the appropriate amount of time (at least 21 days per Connally), this patient stands an excellent chance of full recovery.

Unfortunately, there is an abundancy of misdiagnosed, untreated patients who fall through the cracks into the labyrinth of the Lyme controversy, partially due to only 35-60% of patients having the rash, according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society’s website.  Further, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows doctors to consider patients’ symptoms as a diagnostic tool, but only if accompanied by the rash.  Undiagnosed patients, after approximately three months of no treatment, enter the “late or chronic Lyme phase” which becomes very difficult to treat – if treatable at all.  

According to ILADS, Lyme is referred to as “the ‘great imitator’ because it mimics other conditions, often causing patients to suffer a complicated maze of doctors in search of appropriate treatment.”  Some symptoms include:  Recurring fever, arthritis, fatigue, flu-like muscle pain, dizziness, dementia, depression, walking and sight difficulties, bladder, heart and neurological problems (such as Bell’s palsy).

Many of these symptoms are non-confirmable through tests or clinical observation and are therefore considered “subjective,” leaving it up to the individual doctor to consider them – or not – for a positive Lyme diagnosis.  

The controversy over Lyme testing will be examined in the next part of this series.

1 Comment

  1. LIES, damn lies and statistics! I got bitten by about 60 flea bites in september 1975, just 8 miles from the REAL center of this disease in AMERICA. the TOP SECRET BIOWEAPONS LAB at PLUM ISLAND. NEW YORK. the ENTIRE “LYME” disease is BULLS***! our government has lied for 50 years. they captured some NAZI scientists at the end of world war II who were working on 8 to 10 different syphilis type organisms that NAZIs were attaching to Jewish and Gypsy prisoners. and the U.S. government gave them NEW passports and set them up at PLUM island to work on secret U.S. bioweapons at “LAB 257” for 45 years! it will cost north of $50 billion to fix this problem and we will have to bankrupt the criminals in our defense department, and UNUM/PRovident, and MET LIFE, which are run out of Hartford, CT. the HOME of many sick people! i have been bedbound 22 hours a day for 24 years, and i can barely roll over to pee into a bucket. and MORPHINE and FENTANYL patches barely TOUCH the burning, stinging pain! we are planning a giant, civil class action lawsuit against these scum sucking bastards! you have been warned! ox TMH

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