May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, a great opportunity to look a little deeper at the Central Massachusetts Lyme disease problem. Chronic Lyme disease is too often the progression of Lyme disease. Due to late diagnosis and treatment, patients can suffer debilitating side effects that can last for months. Chronic Lyme, clinically known as Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS), is a chronic condition that can last for months if Lyme goes untreated or even after treatment. Patients can experience long-term fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, nerve pain, dizziness, short-term memory loss and other neurological symptoms.
INACCURATE EARLY LYME DETECTION
With the bulls-eye rash being absent or unnoticed in 20-50% of Lyme cases (depending on who is reporting), diagnosing Lyme is not cut and dry. Other symptoms of Lyme such as joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue, fever, chills and headache are the same as many other ailments. The most common current method of testing for Lyme involves testing for the body’s creation of antibodies against the bacteria (Borrelia Burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. It can be several weeks after infection before this test is accurate, and if you are given antibiotics in the meantime, it can skew the results. Early detection and treatment is key to lowering the risk for Chronic Lyme symptoms.
NEW HOPE FOR SPEEDIER LYME DIAGNOSING
With a great deal of effort going into Lyme diagnostic research, a discovery in genetics could lead to the ability to detect Lyme disease much earlier. Scientists have identified a “gene expression signature” unique to Lyme that makes it possible to detect Borrelia burgdorferi in patients sooner. According to an article in Forbes, the resulting diagnostic test can detect Lyme disease in a patient three weeks before the current antibody testing. By detecting the unique gene expression signature, the testing can also accurately decipher between similar bacterial infections such as B. mayonii and B. Miyamotoi. The article states that this testing is still a few years from being available to the public, but we are hopeful nonetheless.
LYME CASES ARE RISING BUT HOPE EXISTS
With Lyme disease spreading rapidly across the United States and the number of cases rising steadily, Lyme disease is getting more attention. We recently reported on the promising information found in the deer tick genome mapping project for creating vaccines and new pesticides to combat Lyme. It really is just a matter of time before scientists find the right information to lower the nation’s risk for Lyme, a moment we eagerly anticipate.
Until the science is well tested and approved for new Lyme testing, vaccines, and treatments, the best way to manage Lyme disease is to prevent it by avoiding deer ticks and tick bites. In Central Massachusetts, where deer ticks are plentiful, tick control is your best choice for keeping an active, outdoor lifestyle. We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.