Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Special Report: Lyme Disease, a Suburban Menace

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Special Report: Lyme Disease, a Suburban Menace

Article excerpt

Is It a Panic Attack or Is It Lyme Disease?

Panic attacks might be an indication of Lyme disease.

During a 10-week period in 1999, Dr. Virginia T. Sherr, a practicing psychiatrist in Holland, Pennsylvania, saw three nurses who complained of racing pulse, breathlessness, overwhelming anxiety, impending doom, sweating, unique pains, headaches, chills, and confusion.

The nurses did not know one another. Their personal physicians eliminated other possible causes and concluded that the three had typical panic disorders.

Subsequent tests by the psychiatrist found the presence of tick-- borne diseases, specifically deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of Lyme spirochetes in the blood (two cases) or urine (one case), and positive single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) brain scans found brain abnormalities compatible with Lyme disease in all three cases.

Since the diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis, and treatment with high oral doses of antimicrobial medications, all three nurses have been free of panic attacks. Antianxiety medication became unnecessary in one case and was greatly reduced in the others. Two of the patients required pain medications for other symptoms of persistent Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (see Lyme disease: Questions and Answers) that is transmitted by the bite of deer ticks and western black-legged ticks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

Since this diagnosis, other cases from the same geographic and area have also been diagnosed via SPECT scans as Lyme encephalitis/vasculitis, including one man who tested negative and who experienced horrific rage, panic attacks, and headaches. He is recovering with antimicrobial treatment for previously unsuspected tick-borne diseases.

Lyme Disease: Questions and Answers

Q. How is Lyme disease transmitted?

A. By ticks (deer ticks and western black-legged ticks) that become infected with bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

Q. How do people get Lyme disease?

A. By the bite of ticks infected with Lyme disease bacteria.

Q. What is the basic transmission cycle?

A. Immature ticks become infected by feeding on small rodents, such as the white-footed mouse, and other mammals that are infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. In later stages, these ticks then transmit the Lyme disease bacterium to humans and other mammals during the feeding process. These bacteria are maintained in the blood systems of small rodents.

Q. Can you get Lyme disease from another person?

A. No, Lyme disease bacteria are not transmitted from person to person. For example, you cannot get infected from touching or kissing a person who has Lyme disease or from a health care worker who has treated someone with the disease.

Q. What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease?

A. Within days to weeks following a tick bite, 80 per cent of patients have a red, slowly expanding "bull's-eye" rash (called erythema migrans), accompanied by- general tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, and joint pain. If symptoms remain untreated, weeks to months later some patients may develop arthritis, including intermittent episodes of swelling and pain in the large joints; neurologic abnormalities, such as aseptic meningitis, facial palsy, motor and sensory nerve inflammation (radiculoneuritis), and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis); and, rarely, cardiac problems, such as atrioventricular block, acute inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart (myopericarditis), or an enlarged-heart (cardiomegaly). …

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