Borrelia burgdorferi is a species of bacteria that is known to cause Lyme disease. It is the primary type of bacteria, or spirochete, to cause the disease in the United States. Unfortunately Lyme disease is more rampant than most authorities suspect, due to difficulties in testing and diagnosis. The primary test used is called the ELISA test, which is used for screening the disease. If that test comes back positive, a Western Blot test is given, which may help with diagnosis, but as with the ELISA, it is not 100% accurate.
The difficulty with most testing procedures has to do with the fact that they test for antibodies within the human body. If a person’s immune system is lacking, they may not produce enough antibodies to show up on one of the tests. And Lyme disease can negatively affect one’s immune system, so those who have had the disease for many years may not test positive on the screening test. PCR testing as well as spinal taps may be used, for those with neurological symptoms, but as with the previous tests, neither can rule out the disease with complete certainty.
Symptoms of Lyme disease include joint paint, fatigue, achy muscles and flu-like symptoms. A bulls-eye rash is commonly seen when first bitten by an infected tick, but it may be overlooked if does not appear on a common place on the body. The Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria typically will cause symptoms after the host is first infected, but if the disease is untreated, some permanent damage may occur. Those who do not get treated for years will find that a typical dose of antibiotics may not be enough to rid themselves of the disease.
Initially, oral antibiotics are used for those suspected of having Lyme disease. Doxycycline is a common choice, as it also works against other tick-borne illnesses, as well. If the disease has been ongoing for years, or was initially under-treated, intravenous antibiotics may be necessary. Late disseminated infection is much harder to treat, and symptoms are also accordingly worse. Neurological problems, arthritis, and cognitive issues can be seen in some patients who go untreated with Lyme disease. Heart and brain issues may also occur, in those who have been infected for many years.
Early treatment is key when dealing with this infection. If treated early enough, permanent symptoms can be avoided. Avoidance of areas known to have a high incidence of Lyme disease, and making sure you wear proper clothing when outdoors, is of prime importance. Those with flu-like symptoms, especially after venturing outdoors, should see their doctors for testing and diagnosis.