ARE THEY THE SAME DISEASE?
Previously classed as a tick-borne illness, it has now been established that ticks are not the only carriers of Lyme disease. Mice, biting flies, spiders and mosquitos are also known transmitters of Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacterium responsible for a multi-system infection known as Lyme disease. Floating in a sea of controversy are Lyme’s striking resemblances to other diseases that raise questions. With ties connecting to many auto-immune and neurodegenerative disorders it bears a striking resemblance to one in particular- Multiple Sclerosis. Could Lyme and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) be the same disease?
Lyme Disease: The Chronic Problem
Lyme disease, an infection of the elusive bacteria, borrelia Burgdorferi, is overlooked in diagnoses due to the symptoms it shares with other well known, neurodegenerative illnesses, including many autoimmune diseases. Known for its ability to imitate these diseases, Lyme is notoriously misdiagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and Scleroderma just to name a few. “The Great Imitator” as it is sometimes called, is known to imitate over 100 different diseases without known causes or cures.
A more recent discovery that is now widely accepted within the medical community, is that chronic infection is lurking behind most or all chronic illness. Could an infection like Lyme disease be the common denominator in all the chronic diseases it is known to imitate? Further research on Lyme disease and its link to the world of chronic illness continues to shed light on a possible connection.
Multiple Sclerosis and Lyme Disease
Multiple Sclerosis, a disease affecting the central nervous system, shares remarkable similarities to a well-known neurological manifestation of Lyme, called neuroborralias. Symptoms of both are described as, numbness of the body, burning feet, weakness or paralyses of limbs, and encephalopathy or cognitive impairment. Occurring as “flare-ups” in both MS and Lyme, without any pattern of recurrance, symptoms are often triggered by a traumatic life event or when the immune system has been compromised.
Aside from the matching symptoms, patients diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and patients with neuroborralias show similar patterns of white matter visible on brain scans. But, what may perhaps be the strongest link between MS and Lyme, are the geographical patterns discovered in epidemiology studies of Multiple Sclerosis. Results of the study revealed a significantly higher frequency in the occurrence of MS in areas farthest from the equator in the northern hemisphere. These occurrence patterns are consistent with Lyme endemic regions of the United States.
The lack of definitive testing for both diseases presents challenges in accuracy. Both MS and Lyme lay the burden of diagnose on the physician. A collective review of a patients symptoms, tests and history, including a doctor’s past experience will determine the diagnoses. This is problematic however in cases of chronic Lyme. Plagued with controversy over its existence, chronic Lyme has “believers” and “non-believers”. Since most non-believers originated in the medical community, getting a chronic Lyme diagnosis could be impossible depending on the doctor. Doctors who follow the protocol set forth by organizations like the IDSA, and who deny the existence of chronic Lyme are unlikely to even consider chronic Lyme disease, much less diagnose it. These physicians will likely fall back on a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. This is especially true if the patient has previously been treated with a short course of antibiotics, the recommended treatment for the non-chronic form of Lyme disease.
Lyme Doctors Offer Hope For Lyme Sufferers
Dr. Franco, an NMD at Sunridge Medical, an alternative health and wellness clinic in Scottsdale, AZ said this, “Lyme disease is known for its elusiveness, if you’re not looking for it, you’re not going to find it. But, when a patient comes in with a chronic illness, it’s a good reason to start looking for some type of underlying infection. We see a lot of patients here previously diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis that end up having an infection with a particular Lyme expression.”
Could Lyme and MS be the Same Disease?
Considering what we know about the elusive nature of Lyme disease including the controversy surrounding it – It’s seems reasonable to accept the possibility that Lyme and MS are the same disease. While doctors look to sites like IDSA (Infectious Diseases Society of America) for Lyme information and treatment protocols, it’s becoming harder to ignore the patients whose symptoms are chronic. This pervasive denial is at the very least thought provoking, even telling, of Lyme’s possible connection to not only one, but many diseases