According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States. Originating in a town called Lyme, located in Connecticut, Lyme disease affects more than 300,000 people a year nationwide. According to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, fewer than 50% of people affected recall a tick bite or remember seeing a rash.
Most ticks carry other diseases in addition to Lyme, which makes diagnosis difficult. In North Carolina, we have high rates of Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness STARI, and Ehrlichiosis.
Some of the symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Muscle aches
- Sometimes nausea and vomiting
- Sometimes a spotted rash or a large “bulls-eye” rash around the bite.
I was curious about what happens once you are infected and diagnosed, and called my friend Kim, who lives in Maryland, to speak to her about her personal experience living with the disease.
Understanding Lyme Disease and How It Impacts Your Body
Q: Can you tell me when and how you were initially infected with Lyme disease?
A: I contracted Lyme in 2014 while I was on a camping trip with my family in Pennsylvania. That was where I was bitten by a tick. Within two weeks of the trip, I was experiencing vertigo. A week after having vertigo, I was driving and all of a sudden my eyes were not functioning properly. Then I started having crushing fatigue, so bad that it was difficult for me to climb stairs.
Q: How were you diagnosed?
A: Unfortunately, I did not get checked by a doctor soon enough. I was diagnosed about two weeks after the tick bite, and it was too late. I keep on taking the Western Blot test to have the official CDC five band requirement for insurance purposes. My results show four bands positive for Lyme. It took ten blot tests to finally have that result. The tick that infected me also carried Babesia, a malaria-like parasite that infects the red blood cells, so I am also being treated for that. My disease did not affect my joints. Instead, it affects my central nervous system, impacting my hearing and vision. If I don’t keep treating it, it can travel to the brain and heart. I had a vise-like headache for over a year.
Q: What is the treatment like?
A: Lyme is treated immediately with antibiotics, however, these can suppress the immune system, over time, and also the Lyme can become resistant to the antibiotics. I was taking anti-malarial medication for the Babeosis. Currently, I have switched to herbal treatments, and I’m having success with this protocol now. I was able to take a ten-day trip with my family recently which involved a lot of walking. This is the first time in three years that I have been able to do this! I am back to 80% health now.
Q: What is your current condition like?
A: I have permanent damage to my eustachian tubes and my ears are permanently damaged. My vision is not completely normal yet. It is a brain issue, not an eyesight issue. I still have strange sensations in my body. I am also light sensitive.
During our interview, Kim shared important tips on how to prep your family before venturing outside during tick season.
Helpful Ways to Prepare Yourself & Your Family for Tick Season When Going Outside
Spray all clothing and camping gear with permethrin. (See more specifics on how to do this on CDC website listed below.
Wear knee high socks, long pants, and long sleeve shirt.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
Immediately after the hike/outdoor time, perform a tick check.
Ticks like to hide in armpits, warm moist places, and hair.
Check your dogs and apply tick prevention to them as well!
Pets can bring ticks into the house.
Ticks can be as small as a poppyseed. They are especially hard to locate in dark hair.
- If you have been bitten by a tick, know the proper way to remove a tick. ALWAYS PULL UP, NEVER TWIST. Immediately go to the doctor and insist on being treated right away with antibiotics.
In your yard, use cedar mulch. Make a 3-foot wide mulch barrier between wooded areas and the grass in your yard. Trim bushes higher so that small rodents don’t make homes in your yard.
Make or buy Tick Tubes treated with permethrin.
Basically, you can make this with a toilet paper tube stuffed with permethrin soaked cotton balls. Place the tubes low on the ground where mice would find it. Mice and small rodents carry ticks and spread them to deer. You will need 4 tubes per 1/4 acre. Check out this YouTube video on”DIY Tick Tubes”.
Q: How has Lyme Disease changed your daily life?
A: I work with a neuro-ophthalmologist at Johns Hopkins. I have switched to a gluten and dairy free anti-inflammatory diet. My light sensitivity makes me sensitive to fluorescent lights. I have more energy now, and I feel more in control of the disease. I’m able to drive about 2 miles a day before I have head pain. There are many scientists working on Lyme disease now!
For further reference:
More photos of ticks here:
An excellent book if you are infected: Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme and Chronic Disease Hardcover – November 12, 2013, by