Public Health England estimates there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by blood-feeding insects, particularly deer ticks.

Lyme disease, which is more commonly referred to as chronic borreliosis in Europe, is an illness that occurs as a result of an infection with a stealth pathogen (a cell-wall-deficient organism) called Borrelia burgdorferi and is primarily transmitted by ticks.

‘Lyme’ is the name of the American town where the condition was first recognised by Dr Wilhelm Burgdorfer, after whom the pathogen is name.

For decades, doctors at Breakspear Medical have been actively looking for infectious agents such as borreliosis, Epstein-Barr virus, Parvovirus B19 and bacterial, rickettsial and parasitic organisms to find the cause of many illnesses, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Lyme disease facts

  • Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tick or other blood-feeding insect.
  • 7 to 10 days after an infected insect’s bite, the first stage of Lyme disease begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain.
  • Neurological complications most often occur in the second stage of Lyme disease.
  • Complications include numbness, pain, weakness, visual disturbances, and meningitis symptoms such as fever, stiff neck, and severe headaches.
  • Weeks, months, or years after a tick bite, other problems, such as difficulty with concentration, irritability, depression, fatigue, muscle pain, memory and/or sleep disorders and nerve damage may occur.
  • If a bite has not been noticed, these symptoms often get misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or psychiatric problems.
  • There is controversy over the testing of Lyme disease. Serological tests may not pick it up, leading to falsely negative diagnosis.
  • Clinical diagnoses of borreliosis may be made but it is helpful to have other laboratory evidence of infection.

Symptoms of Lyme disease/chronic borreliosis

Common symptoms include:

  • numbness
  • pain
  • weakness
  • visual disturbances
  • fever
  • stiff neck
  • severe headaches
  • difficulties with concentration
  • joint pain
  • depression
  • irritability
  • sleep disorders
  • nerve damage
  • chronic fatigue

After a person becomes infected with borreliosis by a tick or other blood-feeding insect, the person may develop a resulting skin rash.  This characteristic “bull’s eye” circular rash, called erythema migrans, is a clear indication that the tick was infected and treatment should start immediately. However, sometimes later a chronic rash can occur, with fever, headache and pain in the muscles and joints and some infected people may not experience any noticeable symptoms at the time of infection.  Some people do not receive treatment and forget about the infecting bite and many years later develop symptoms of infection.

Without treatment, the symptoms can last for weeks or even longer. Sometimes serious complications may occur several years later including arthritis, heart problems, nervous system problems and/or neurological abnormalities.

Unfortunately the many common symptoms lead to many cases of borreliosis being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Many undiagnosed sufferers have been told that the symptoms are just in their heads.

Identifying Lyme disease/chronic borreliosis

The accredited laboratory investigations we offer at Breakspear Medical for borreliosis include:

  • Borrelia antibody evaluation by ELISA technique, which measures antibodies to the organism.
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction test for Borrelia burgdorferi, which measures the presence of the DNA – the chromosomes of the organism from the patient.
  • Lymphocyte Transformation Test for Borrelia burgdorferi (LTT MELISA), which, if the results are positive, demonstrates current active infection with the organism.
  • Borrelia burgdorferi IgG and IgM antibody evaluation by the Immunoblot/Western Blot technique, which detects portions of the Lyme disease organism.

There are other investigations that may be undertaken. Tests of specific Lyme-related lymphocyte reactions can be performed. The outer surface peptides often camouflage the organisms and reactions to these may be evaluated. We can also measure co-factor infections.

It is important to note that different laboratories use different methods and criteria to interpret the results, which means that false-positives and false-negatives may happen with the only tests that are available anywhere at this time. Sometimes it takes several tests to develop a clear diagnosis of infection. It is also important to review one’s clinical history in addition to reviewing the test results.

Treatment

The treatment outcome of Lyme disease depends on numerous factors including the duration of infection, the number of bites, the strength of the person’s immune system and his/her detoxification capacity.

If you believe you have Lyme disease/chronic borreliosis, when you telephone Reception +44(0) 1442 261 333 to book an appointment, please let the receptionist know that you may have this condition. Once it has been determined that you have borreliosis, your doctor will then discuss the individual the treatments, which may include antibiotics, biofilm breakers and immune support, as well as dietary and other interventions where appropriate.

Costs

The diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease/chronic borreliosis is complicated and specific programmes will be tailored to your needs, so the cost of testing and treatment will vary. After your first appointment, you will be given a detailed estimate, with your recommended treatment programme with all the costs, which will be explained to you by your Patient Liaison Officer.

On the day of your appointment or anytime afterward, if you have any specific questions regarding prices, estimates and treatment programmes, please contact a Patient Liaison Officer, by phone 01442 261 333 ext 293, or email: liaison@breakspearmedical.com

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