Lyme disease is the fastest-growing vector-borne disease in the Unites States, and I suspect in the world too. While it is getting to be more well known, there are still many health professionals who do not recognize Lyme disease as a possible cause of multiple and diverse health issues. Couple that with not-sensitive-enough first line testing, and we have a health crisis that is reaching epidemic proportions, and a lot of people suffering because they are not being properly diagnosed. If Lyme is something that you’ve vaguely heard of somewhere along the line, but you’re not sure if it could be the cause of your health problems, here are five clues that you might have Lyme disease:
- Your symptoms wax and wane over time.
You might have had a period of horrible night sweats, but that was a year ago, and they seem to have vanished on their own for no explainable reason. But then the headaches that haven’t been around before suddenly appear out of the blue. Nothing has really changed in what you’re doing vis-à-vis medications, supplements or your diet, but your symptoms seem to come and go and none of it really makes sense.
- Your symptoms have a monthly flare.
This is a little different to the situation above, in that symptoms follow a more predictable cycle, with a flare up happening every month. This is true for men or women – in women it tends to sync with the menstrual cycle, creating not only more severe PMS symptoms, but also a worsening of all symptoms.
- Your labs all look normal and on paper you seem really healthy.
Isn’t that the worst? And then your doctor might go on to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you. Arrrrrghhhhhh. I love that people get screened for many different illnesses, because ruling out all possible and probable causes of disease is crucial. The problem is, many Lyme patients test negative for other diseases (obviously) and even more importantly show very few imbalances in some of the basic bloodwork markers that their doctors might run.
- You’ve been told at least once that it’s all in your head, and to be fair there have been many moments along the way where you’ve questioned if you really are crazy after all.
Point number 3 perpetuates this, of course, because when doctors run out of tests to perform, and run out of possible diagnoses t consider, the obvious option at that point (to them anyway) is that illness is psychosomatic – meaning, anxiety, depression, negative viewpoint, paranoia, etc. could be responsible for the physical symptoms. They simply may not have any other answers and so that becomes the default. It’s also so discouraging when you’re looking for answers to your ongoing health problems to be told there’s nothing actually wrong with you, at least on paper. Many of my patients find themselves starting to question whether it might indeed be all in their head, until they realize, for the bajillionth time, that that’s impossible because they really are sicker than sick and they wouldn’t wish this on their worst enemy.
- Your Lyme test comes back positive.
Um, well, duh. But while this might sound trite, you’d be surprised how many patients of mine have had Lyme testing through another doctor, only to have that doc tell them they don’t have Lyme even though their test result was positive. It’s shocking to me. I’m not sure what that’s all about – if it’s their training based on the IDSA position of “no such thing as chronic Lyme”, or if the global denial of Lyme has just infiltrated the medical profession by osmosis. But if your test reports as positive, that’s a great clue that you have Lyme, and I suggest getting to a Lyme-literate health professional (www.ilads.org has a great referral listing).
Lyme disease is brutal, but it is treatable. Please don’t be discouraged from fully exploring Lyme as a possibility, simply because one health care provider sweeps the idea under the rug. Lots of people have wasted a lot of years unnecessarily, not by their own choice or doing – please don’t let that be you too.