Late stage Lyme disease symptoms can occur weeks, months, and even years after a tick bite as the infection spreads throughout the body and infiltrates the central nervous system. Treatment at an early stage, with antibiotics, usually kills the bacteria and eradicates symptoms. Although more difficult to treat at a later stage, antibiotics are also effective against disseminated Lyme disease. Those who remain untreated can have persistent debilitating symptoms, although the existence of chronic Lyme disease is questionable. Where antibiotic treatment has been given, the recurrence of symptoms may simply be due to another tick bite which would then, again, respond to antibiotic treatment. Long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease are inadvisable, unproven, and potentially dangerous.
In many cases it may be that a patient has been incorrectly diagnosed with Lyme disease when they actually have symptoms of an unrelated illness such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, and psychosis. Diagnosis is difficult, especially where a patient cannot recall having been bitten by a tick recently and did not develop erythema migrans at the time. An alternative explanation for persistent symptoms of Lyme disease is the possibility that the body’s own immune system continues to attack itself even after infection has been eradicated, with Lyme disease effectively causing an autoimmune condition.
Skin Rash for European Lyme Disease Cases
Another skin rash may occur in some patients, particular in European cases of Lyme disease in the elderly. Acrodermatitis chronic atrophicans (ACA) is a chronic skin disorder that commonly begins on the top of the foot or the back of the hands and turns the skin a reddish-blue color initially. This discoloration may then spread and, over a number of weeks or months, the skin begins to thin and become dry, hairless, and wrinkled. This may be the only residual sign of Lyme disease and is not common in North America, Russia, or Asia, making it most likely connected to individual bacterial strains found only in Europe.
Late stage Lyme disease symptoms are often more severe and debilitating than earlier symptoms, with a number of patients finding it difficult to carry out normal activities and encountering problems with work, relationships, and general quality of life. Severe headaches, intermittently painful and swollen joints, cognitive problems, irritability, and abnormal cardiac function may all occur along with numbness in the hands and feet. Neurological issues such as disorientation, mental ‘fog’, poor concentration, an inability to finish sentences or follow conversations, and an impairment of short-term memory have all been observed as late stage Lyme disease symptoms and are often classified as Lyme encephalopathy.
‘Fibro Fog’ and Neuroborreliosis (Neurological Lyme Disease)
The ‘fibro fog’ reported by many fibromyalgia sufferers, along with diverse and migratory muscular aches and pains could be due to persistent Lyme disease infection which has been misdiagnosed. Conversely, patients who have been told, or who believe, that they have chronic Lyme disease symptoms, may actually be suffering from fibromyalgia or another chronic condition. Lyme disease, even at a late stage does not increase the incidence of depression or fibromyalgia however, although patients with Lyme encephalopathy usually also suffer profound fatigue. The importance of correct diagnosis is highlighted by the dangers of long-term, inappropriate, medication for the wrong condition such as antibiotic use for an illness not based on an underlying infection, or muscle relaxants and psychotherapy for a treatable systemic bacterial infection leading to Lyme disease symptoms.
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