May 30, 2016

371 Lyme Disease [30 May 2016]

Lyme disease is a serious illness caused by a spirochete bacterial infection (Borrelia burgdorferi) carried by the Black-Legged (Deer) tick. The most common tick in Saskatchewan is the American Dog (Wood) tick, but deer ticks do occur (less than 1%), especially in the south of the province, and with warmer winters will likely increase.

Cases of Lyme disease in Canada increased from 128 in 2009 to over 700 in 2015. The official Saskatchewan count for Lyme disease is 4 patients in the past 10 years. But because of the strict definition used in the province, the actual number of cases is much higher, and most of them believe they contracted the disease in the province.

Treatment by antibiotics at an early stage is usually effective but the disease is notoriously hard to diagnose and too many patients have gone misdiagnosed for years. The chronic stage can be debilitating and very hard to treat.

The classic sign of bullseye rash may occur in less than 10% of cases. In more than 50% of cases there may not be any rash. Initial symptoms are sore throat, headaches, congestion, pain and stiffness, all of which resemble a cold or “flu”.

The lab test used in Canada (for borrelia antibodies) is notorious for false negatives, especially in the first month. So even if your test is negative, you may still have Lyme disease. Tests in the US are more accurate but still not 100%.

Dr. Ted Cormode, a retired MD whose daughter had Lyme disease, argues that calling Lyme disease hard to diagnose is just an excuse for missed diagnoses. He believes that improved education of health care providers is required and that early diagnosis and treatment based on signs, symptoms and history (rather than depend on lab tests) will greatly improve outcomes for Lyme disease victims.

As always, the best treatment is prevention. When walking in tall grass or under trees, tuck in your pant legs and do a thorough examination of yourself, your children and pets when you come in. Remember even tiny ticks can transmit disease. Use an effective insect repellent with DEET, or essential oils known to deter ticks like rose geranium and cedarwood.

See the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation website for more information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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