What is Lyme disease? If you are anything like I was. You know little about the disease other than it is usually spread by the bite of a tick.
What is Multiple Sclerosis? The name means Several scars. When most people think of multiple Sclerosis they think of people who are wheelchair bound. Possibly, you are visiting this page in hopes of sorting out some of the confusion surrounding both diseases which mimic each other. I am NOT an expert by no means but in having symptoms and being tested over the past few months I have spent countless hours researching and learning as much as I can. Here is what I know to date…..
Let’s start with Lyme disease. Lyme disease is more commonly transmitted by the bite of a tick, but some say it can be transmitted by other insects and animals such as mosquitos, spiders, mice etc. Lyme disease is caused by a microbe known as Borrelia burgdorferi. It is not uncommon for people to have Lyme disease for weeks, months and even years and not even know it. While some people have symptoms immediately following infection, some only feel the effects of the disease after the microbes have had time to embed into organs, muscles, tissue etc. The microbes can be quite stealthy and lay dormant for many years. Only about 50% of people infected with Lyme disease have the infamous circular rash at the site of the tick bite. ( I did not get the Lyme rash. Also referred to as the “bullseye’ rash because of its circular appearance with a red center but I will talk more about that later. ) There is a lot more to talk about when it comes to Lyme disease but I just want to highlight some key parts and not be overwhelming.
Now let’s talk about Multiple Sclerosis, otherwise known as MS. MS is a disease where your immune system attacks the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is a protective tissue coating that protects nerve fibers. Without that fatty coating, nerves are vulnerable to damage. Scar tissue may form affecting how well the nerve functions, thus disrupting the information your brain is sending to other parts of your body. So basically MS is when your own body turns against itself and begins to attack healthy tissue protecting delicate nerves. These scars can be seen on an MRI and are referred to as brain lesions.
Both diseases are unpredictable and no two cases are exactly alike. Both diseases are clinically diagnosed with a series of tests and a medical history review. MS is a progressive lifelong illness. Lyme disease may go away on its own but can spread throughout the body as well. There is no current cure for MS. A course of antibiotics can cure Lyme disease.
Lyme disease and MS have several symptoms in common, including the following to list a few;
- numbness or tingling
- muscle spasms and or twitches
- vision problems
- Loss of concentration/short-term memory loss
Here is a weird controversial fact about the diseases. MANY, if not MOST, MS patients that have donated their bodies to research, do in fact have Lyme disease. The spirochete bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi, have been found in the brains of MOST MS patients. Maybe the cause of MS? Some believe that to be the case, others do not. Much more research is needed for both diseases.
So how does this pertain to me? I am being tested for both diseases. My test came back positive on the Western Blot test for Lyme disease. The Western Blot test is used to confirm diagnosis AFTER the Elissa test is used. However, the infectious disease doctor that I saw does not feel I have Lyme disease and believes I may have had a false positive test. Therefore she is retesting. However, she is retesting with the Elissa test. That test is NOT as sensitive and is known to miss about 40% of people with known Lyme disease. This seems backward to me but okaaay….
Good news is the Neurologist does not believe I have MS at this point but it is not off the table. As of now we are at a standstill and will do another MRI in a few months to see if my brain lesions have changed any. How I feel about this? I’m annoyed. I’m ready to move forward with the correct treatment and feel better. But there is only so much that can be done. Meanwhile, I work on being patient.
Also, I believe it may be time to find a Lyme literate doctor? I don’t know. We will see. One day at a time……