Many people don’t believe that Lyme Disease even exists in Texas.
After seeing 28 doctors over a period of 2 1/2 years, Lisa Bridges was unable to get an accurate diagnosis for her health problems. Each doctor did his best and was usually able to come up with some diagnosis in his field of practice. Countless prescriptions, diagnostic tests, physical therapy, pain medications, and three surgeries brought little relief from her symptoms.
A trip to Dallas to see a doctor of Osteopathy for cranial sacral massage brought the answer to her mystery illness. After reading her story on her new patient form, the doctor walked in the room and said, “I think that you have Lyme Disease!”. Lisa had visited a rural area before she became sick, but she never saw a tick, had any type of bite, nor did she have the typical bull’s eye rash of Lyme Disease. Only about 40% of patients actually get the distinctive rash.
None of the 28 doctors thought to test her for Lyme Disease. 13 of the doctors were Neurologists and one was even an Infectious Disease Doctor.
The next hurdle was getting an official diagnosis. Blood tests for Lyme Disease are often inaccurate because the bacteria come and go between the blood stream and the tissues of the body. A positive test is definitive, but a negative test does not prove that the patient doesn’t have the disease. Lisa had three Lyme Disease tests before she was given the official positive diagnosis according to the standards of the Center for Disease Control. Some people never test positive and must be given a clinical diagnosis from their symptoms alone.
But the battle was not over for Lisa just because she had a diagnosis. The longer that the disease has gone untreated, the more difficult it is to treat. The treatment for Lyme Disease is not straightforward and it seems to be a game of trial and error to find the right treatment for each patient. Lisa has had many wonderful doctors who have helped her along the way. She has been treated by two LLMD’s (Lyme Literate Doctors) in Texas, a very open-minded infectious disease doctor, also in Texas, and an LLMD in Louisiana. Lisa is presently traveling three times a year to see a well-known LLMD doctor in San Francisco. In the last three months she has finally experienced some significant improvement in the symptoms that have plagued her for the last seven years.
For patients like Lisa whose Lyme Disease was not caught in time, doctors need to be open minded and willing to send them to a“Lyme Literate Doctor.” A LLMD is not a medical specialty, but a term given to doctors who have experience and training in treating tick borne diseases. These doctors might actually be general practitioners, doctors of internal medicine, doctors of osteopathy, or even gynecologists! What these doctors often have in common is that they themselves or a member of their family, or someone close to them, had Lyme Disease and was unable to get well with the short course of antibiotics that is customary. These dedicated and caring doctors have devoted their practice to treating the complex tick borne diseases of their patients.
No matter how long the patient has been ill, an Infectious Disease Doctor will prescribe the basic four to eight weeks of oral antibiotics or maybe eight weeks of IV antibiotics if the patient has neurological symptoms. If the patient’s symptoms continue after treatment, the ID doctor will pronounce him Lyme-free and say that the remaining symptoms must be from something else, or that they are residual symptoms brought on as a result of the disease. The reality is that the patient is still having symptoms because the pathogen load of Lyme bacteria is not yet low enough for the patient’s compromised immune system to take over and that more treatment is necessary. LLMD’s, however, follow a different set of guidelines which are based on the principle of treating the patient until he is well.
You might ask what can I do to help about this problem of Lyme Disease in Texas?
*Ask your family doctor if he has had any recent training in identifying and treating tick borne diseases. Doctors are required to take a certain number of hours of courses every year to stay up to date. The Texas Lyme Disease Association develops courses to educate doctors on the different symptoms that should alert a doctor to consider Lyme Disease and how to treat it.
*Use bug spray when you are in any high grass or in or near wooded areas. A patient friend of Lisa’s was bitten at a park in the middle of Houston. Another patient lives in a suburban subdivision that backs up to a wooded area. He got Lyme Disease in his own backyard!
*Check for ticks daily when you are spending time outdoors. Ticks can be found year round in Texas. In the late spring and early summer they can be the size of a poppy seed. Shower with a wash cloth and wash your hair to be sure tiny ticks are removed.
*If you are bitten by a tick or have a bite from an unidentified bug and you experience any type of rash anywhere on your body or have other symptoms, call or see your doctor right away and ask him to give you 4-6 weeks of antibiotics or even longer if your symptoms have not resolved. Do not wait for diagnostic testing to start treatment. Fortunately, early treatment results in successful recovery from Lyme Disease.
*Keep Lyme Disease in mind if you or someone you know suffers from unexplained symptoms. Do not discount symptoms that come and go, as this is common in Lyme Disease. If you are ill and have a questionable diagnosis such as Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, investigate the possibility of Lyme Disease.
*Tell others what you have learned about Lyme Disease. Help spread the word by sending them this article.