The Great Imitator – How Lyme Disease Can Hide

Lyme Disease Masquerades as Other Conditions

One of the most troubling things about Lyme disease is the difficulty of diagnosis. If you suspect you have Lyme disease, seeking out a doctor who has Lyme experience would be a wise choice. Let’s take a look at how Lyme disease can be diagnosed as other illnesses.

Because the disease is so complex, and symptoms are similar to so many illnesses, Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed. Thus, patients who are being treated for other illnesses without success, such as hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, should consider Lyme disease as a possible cause.

What tests do I need?

A number of lab tests can be done to determine if a patient has Lyme disease, including the Western Blot and the ELISA test. But even if a patient is tested, standard testing will miss more than 90% of chronic Lyme cases. It is important to note, too, that standard Lyme disease tests are not reliable in the first few weeks following infection, because the patient’s immune system has not yet produced enough antibodies to be detected by lab tests. Additionally, proper interpretation of lab tests require that physicians have adequate understanding and specialized training on the test, the stage of illness, and the likelihood that the patient has the disease, which many doctors do not have.

The latest in Lyme testing is a newly developed and validated Lyme culture test created by Dr. Joseph Burrascano, a renowned Lyme disease specialist. Most lab tests look for the body’s response to the to the infection, or production of antibodies. The Lyme culture tests, in contrast, actually allows the Lyme bacteria to be grown outside the body in cultures, something that has not been capable until very recently. The new Lyme culture tests not only can help diagnose new cases of Lyme disease, but also can prove that lingering symptoms of Lyme disease are not due to post-Lyme syndrome, as some doctors may presume, but instead are due to the presence of active Lyme disease that has been inadequately treated.
– via Holtorf Medical Group

It’s Not All In Your Head

Sometimes, sufferers of Lyme disease aren’t diagnosed properly and instead are told that they’re symptoms are psychological. This is a real tragedy, since successful treatment is always easier, the earlier you catch the Lyme disease. If you are experiencing symptoms and your doctor can’t find a diagnosis, it makes sense to insist on considering Lyme disease as the culprit – and to seek out a Lyme disease expert to do that testing, when possible. Here’s a closer look at how Lyme disease has managed to stay invisible in many patients.

 The Invisible Illness

Many Lyme patients who battle this disease on a daily basis appear healthy, which is why Lyme disease has been called “the invisible illness.” They often “look good,” and their blood work appears normal, but their internal experience is a far different story. Patients struggling with Lyme disease usually become adept at hiding their pain from others as a way to cope and restore some degree of normalcy to their lives.

Part of the problem with diagnosing and treating Lyme disease is that it is so easy to misdiagnose.

Lyme disease is called “the great imitator,”5 mimicking other disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, Lyme patients can even develop paralysis or slip into a coma. The only distinctive hallmark unique to Lyme disease is the “bulls eye” rash, but this is absent in nearly half of those infected. Laboratory tests are notoriously unreliable.

Fewer than half of Lyme patients recall a tick bite. In some studies, this number is as low as 15 percent. So, if you don’t recall seeing a tick on your body, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of Lyme disease. According to TBDA3:

“Although the bulls eye red rash is considered the classic sign to look for, it is not even the most common dermatologic manifestation of early Lyme infection. Atypical forms of this rash are seen far more commonly. It is important to know that the Erythema Migrans rash is a clear, unequivocal sign of Lyme disease…”

Besides the rash, some of the first symptoms of Lyme disease may include a flu-like condition with fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, achiness and fatigue. For a complete list of symptoms, refer to the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance6 (TBDA), but some of the more frequent symptoms include the following2:

Muscle and joint pain
Neurological problems
Heart involvement
Vision and hearing problems
– via

It’s important to know that successful treatment IS possible and that the sooner you catch it, the easier it will be to treat. Have you, or someone you know, ever suffered from Lyme disease?