Chronic Lyme Disease

Chronic Lyme Disease or late-stage Lyme is the third stage of this multi-system, multi-stage illness. Various factors may contribute to chronic Lyme disease. It can occur when patients have not been properly diagnosed or treated, or if they have received inadequate treatment. Some Lyme experts say that if all of the bacteria causing the Lyme infection are not killed, or if the patient does not continue to detoxify their body, and therefore creates conditions in which the Lyme bacteria can continue to infect them, the illness can move into a chronic stage, resulting in many other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, neurological disorganization, cardiac problems and more.

Patients who are diagnosed immediately after getting infected seem to have the best chance of quick and complete recovery when they begin antibiotic therapy immediately. Yet Lyme disease, also known as the Great Imitator, can mimic the symptoms of at least a hundred other medical conditions. Unsuspecting patients and their physicians simply may not know which tests to administer in the face of so many possibilities. Lyme disease is so often misdiagnosed that if and when the patient does eventually receive a correct diagnosis, their condition may have already entered the late stage.

Learn about chronic Lyme disease on the LDRD blog

Additionally, if the patient does not receive antibiotics for a long enough period of time, the symptoms may become chronic due to the bacteria's ability to pull up a protective shell, or cyst, around itself as protection against the antibiotics and the patient's own immune response system, only to emerge later.

Misdiagnoses can contribute to chronic Lyme disease when doctors subscribe medications for diseases or conditions they believe their patients have, but in fact they do not. This can have disastrous results. For example, the use of cortico-steroids will replicate the spirochetal bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Therefore, steroids are to be avoided where Lyme disease is suspected, and they are contraindicated. Some Lyme-literate doctors believe that steroid use while Lyme bacteria are present will cause chronic Lyme disease. But, ignorant of the possibility of the presence of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, medical doctors have mistakenly prescribed steroids to control inflammation, with calamitous results for their patients.

Many people who have been labeled with another chronic disease such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s and others, may indeed have a condition that could be effectively treated with antibiotics. Lyme bacteria may be the underlying cause of their current condition, or at least a contributor. Many medical doctors are currently not educated about the complexity of the Lyme infection. This is unfortunate, considering the alarming rise in the number of proven Lyme disease diagnoses. Some doctors may simply never suspect Lyme infection and therefore, never administer a test for Lyme disease or one of the many co-infections with which it is frequently associated. They may go on wrongly treating a misdiagnosed patient for years. The patient, for their part, may continue being sick with chronic Lyme disease, never understanding why the medicines they consume aren’t making them any better.

Rampant misdiagnoses, unreliable tests and contentiousness between medical experts regarding the correct treatment of Lyme disease has created a milieu wherein patients are typically aware that they must advocate for their own healing path. But how can Lyme disease patients advocate the best treatment for themselves if they are unaware of the underlying cause of their illness? And why are many medical experts ignorant of, and uninformed about, this rapidly spreading disease?

Medical insurance constraints on long-term treatment of chronic Lyme disease contribute to the problem. Many clinics, doctors and hospitals are heavily lobbied by wealthy insurance companies who refuse to acknowledge the evidence put forth by Lyme-literate experts that long-term care is necessary for treating chronic Lyme successfully. Many MDs simply adhere to the stringent protocol of this damaging disease posited by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

CDC protocol set by the IDSA, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, calls for the administration of a thirty day course of antibiotics and assumes that Lyme bacteria will be eradicated, and the patient recovered, by the end of the course. In some cases, this standard protocol may indeed be sufficient. Moreover, the ISDA refuses to recognize scientific evidence of the existence of chronic Lyme disease.

Given the extremely complicated nature of a correct diagnosis, the varied symptoms of Lyme disease patients, professional denial, and the confusion of medical doctors over how best to treat Lyme, it is little wonder that in many cases a thirty day course of antibiotic therapy does not cure the patient. According to International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, ILADS, protocol guidelines for the treatment of Lyme disease, "rather than an arbitrary thirty day course, the patient's clinical response should guide duration of therapy."


ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society

IDSA, the Infectious Diseases Society of America

American Academy of Physicians

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Beating Lyme Disease by Dr. David Jernigan, B.S., D.C., and Dr. Sara Koch Jernigan, B.S. D.C.

Bowen Research Laboratory:

Academy for Bio-Energetic and Integrative Medicine:

 Copyright © 2005-2008 Suzanne Arthur. All rights reserved.