Dr. Kim talks Lyme disease

Published 12:17 pm Monday, August 5, 2019

Hi Dr. Kim, could you explain exactly what is Lyme disease, and what should be done if you think you have it? Thanks! — Betty from Elizabethton

Hi Betty! Thanks for your question. Lyme disease comes from tick bites. It is an epidemic in the United States, Canada, and in some parts of Europe. Knowing what it is and how it is spread will help us prevent it, and let people with this disease recognize it and seek treatment. The first symptom of a tick-bite is the Bull’s eye rash — a rash with circles that looks like a drawing of a bull’s eye. Some people know they were bitten by a tick but sometimes do not have a bull’s eye rash.

Lyme disease comes from a bacteria in the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). The bacteria is known as Bb — borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is a spirochete, named so because of its twisted shape. Because the culprit is a bacterium, a person who has been bitten by a tick must see their doctor for antibiotics immediately. Antibiotics can be effective against Bb if taken as soon as possible. The more time that has passed since the tick bite, the less effective they become. Antibiotics administered within 72 hours of the tick removal is ideal.

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Lyme disease is notorious for not showing up on lab tests. Often the infected person only has symptoms and the fact that they were bitten by a tick to attest for this disease. Because it is difficult to lab test for, Lyme is known as one of the “invisible” diseases.

Muscles and joints hold the clue that a chronic disease could be Lyme. Spirochetes contribute to weakening of the muscles and joints. The broad spectrum of symptoms in Lyme disease are: major neck and shoulder pain, cramping of muscles, pain in the joints, heart or chest pain, brain fog, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and lupus-like symptoms. Often Lyme disease is accompanied by malaise, a feeling by the infected person that they are unable to go about their normal day, work, or that they “can’t go on.” As you can see, these symptoms sound like effects of many other diseases and imbalances. They key is that these symptoms are clustered together and the person can pinpoint a specific time when they started feeling this way. If they say “it was after a trip to so-and-so where we went hiking” or “when I was this age exactly the symptoms started” there is a good indication that a tick bite may have occurred.

The problem with detecting Spirochetes (Bb bacteria) is that they can go dormant for long periods of time, becoming “sleeper cells” and later become active again.

Lyme disease is serious because the symptoms can get worse over time, they can be severe and there is no specific cure for it as of today. Antibiotics and herbal therapy offer the best solutions available. Antibiotics must be taken soon, people who can get them within the time frame often avoid Lyme disease altogether. Teasel herb tincture and Cat’s Claw herb are being studied as specific treatments for Lyme disease to eliminate spirochetes.

Because the human body’s immune system can fight bacteria, it is always important to keep the immune system healthy in any disease, especially an infectious one. Good nutrition, moderate and effective supplementation, clean spring water, and adequate rest boost the immune system naturally. Regular complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and meditation also boost the immune system. Gentle exercise like brisk walking, tai chi, yoga, and aerobics keep the immunity tonic and active by moving the lymph fluids in the body.

If you were bitten by a tick or believe that you could have Lyme disease, the first steps are to see your doctor for testing and treatment. After that, make sure to get proper nutrition and plenty of rest at home. Only take herbs from knowledgeable and reputable sources, and do not take many different herbs at the same time. Get vitamins for any vitamin level your lab tests show are low. Though modern medicine is still researching for solutions to Lyme disease, it is possible to live with this disease with a good quality of life and reduce the spirochetes in the body. If you are living with Lyme disease, ask for your family’s support. Go to your doctor regularly and if necessary seek second opinions. Get more than one test for Lyme, since false negatives are possible. Above all keep on top of Lyme research, seek treatment, and create a lifestyle that minimizes symptoms and supports your body and mind.


Dr. Kimberly McMurtrey DNP, APRN, FNP-C is the Primary Provider at Tri Cities Health, located on West Elk Ave., Elizabethton. If you would like to submit a question for her to answer you can call 423-543-7000 or email your questions to tricitieshealth@outlook.com.

**Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this column is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.