What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial (spirochete) infection transmitted through the bite of an infected tick to both humans and animals. It is a multi-systemic infectious disease that, if left untreated, will travel from the skin through the bloodstream to organs, cells, and various body tissues. It is often called "The Great Imitator" because it can mimic many other diseases or illnesses (MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Influenza, Mono, Alzheimer's, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, ALS, Parkinson's, etc.). Lyme disease is endemic to the United States as well as throughout the world.

The most well-known causative agent of Lyme disease is Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). However, other strains of Borrelia bacteria are also considered the cause of Lyme Borreliosis (Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia andersonii, Borrelia valaisiana, etc.). Worldwide, there are about three hundred known species of Borrelia bacteria.

The Borrelia bacteria are polymorphic. This means it can change its form to ensure survival and proliferation in the body. This shifting, which enables the bacteria to elude immune defenses, can significantly confuse the immune system and, over time, create severe immune imbalance and dysfunction. There are three forms it can transform into - spirochete, cell-wall deficient, and cyst. To better understand these forms, go here to read an excerpt.

Lyme disease is considered a tick-borne infection. However, the transmission of the Lyme bacteria is also very possible through other vectors, i.e., infected mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, mites, and flies. There is evidence now that supports Lyme can be sexually transmitted. To read more about this, go here.

There are three stages of Lyme disease:

Stage 1 - Early Localized Infection (from the initial time of bite - first 4 weeks after a bite) The infection is not yet widespread throughout the body.

General symptoms include:
  • Flu-like symptoms (usually the first symptoms)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body-wide itching 
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Stiff neckk
  • Bull's eye rash (usually a red circular rash with a fading spot in the center) 
Lyme-related rashes can look like a type of bruise or bite. Often there can be multiple ring-like rashes on the body.* FYI - over half of the people infected with Borrelia burgdorferi never notice a Bull's eye rash, and many have a different kind of rash altogether.

* It has been documented that the Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) bacteria can cross the Blood-Brain-Barrier (BBB), invading the brain within the first hours (8-72 hrs) after the initial infection. 

Stage 2 - Early Disseminated Infection (1 to 4 months)
The bacteria have begun spreading throughout the body. 

If Lyme disease is not detected and treated early, the infection can disseminate or spread throughout the body affecting the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), the peripheral nervous system (nerves), the cardiovascular system (heart and vessels), liver, muscles, joints, skin, and various other organs. The Lyme bacteria can also suppress and damage the immune system when left untreated. 
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low-grade fevers
  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbances
  • Light and/or sound sensitivity 
  • Irritability
  • Bell's Palsy 
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Rashes
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Wooziness (unsteady, faint, dazed, muddled, slightly nauseous)
  • Sharp, shooting, or stabbing pains
  • Digestive issues (ranging from minor to severe)
  • Food allergies 

Stage 3 - Late Disseminated or Persistent Infection (Chronic Lyme) 
The bacteria have spread throughout the body.
  • Severe persistent fatigue
  • Fevers 
  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart)
  • Myocarditis (inflammation or infection of the heart muscle often associated with pericarditis)
  • Endocarditis (inflammation of the lining inside of the heart chambers and valves) 
  • Arrhythmia (irregular or abnormal heart rhythm) 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vertigo
  • Disequilibrium (loss of balance and/or coordination) 
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • Colitis (inflammation of the lining of the colon) 
  • Paresthesias (numbness, tingling, burning, buzzing, stabbing, or sharp shooting pains)
  • Insomnia 
  • Cognitive impairment 
  • Speech problems
  • Muscle weakness, tenderness, and pain
  • Joint tenderness, pain, swelling, and/or stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Nystagmus  
  • Tinnitus (buzzing or ringing in the ears)
  • Pressure or fullness in the ears
  • Paralysis
  • Gait disturbances  

Symptoms may come and go. However, they usually become persistent in late-stage or chronic Lyme. A person can have any combination of these at any stage ranging from minor to moderate to severe. While there are often many shared commonalities, Lyme disease can affect people differently. Differing strains of Borrelia bacteria, other vector-borne co-infections (Babesia, Ehrlichia, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Relapsing Fever, Powassan Virus, Tularemia, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, etc.), viral co-infections (Epstein-Barr, CMV, HHV-6, etc.), Mycoplasma, opportunistic infections, the condition of one's immune system, how soon one is diagnosed, biofilms, genetics, and any pre-existing health issues or trauma can all play a role in the severity and chronicity of this disease. The majority of chronic Lyme patients are multiply co-infected, making treatment and healing much more complex.

* Peak season for ticks is mid-spring to fall. However, adult ticks can remain active in temperatures above freezing (32 degrees F) any time of year *

Risk Factors for Lyme disease:
  • Outside activities increase tick exposure, such as yard work, gardening, hiking, camping, hunting, and farming. Also, be mindful of children playing outdoors or in parks. 
  • Having a pet that may carry ticks home. 
  • Stumps or fallen trees.
  • Wood and leaf piles.
  • Walking in or near high grasses.

Safety Precautions:
  • Wear light-colored clothing while outside.
  • Wear long pants and tuck pant legs into longs socks.
  • Use Picaridin spray or lotion on your skin for tick repellent (effective and less toxic than DEET). 
  • For a more natural tick repellent, use Lyme Guard on your skin.
  • For general insect (ticks, mosquitoes, flies, chiggers) repellent, use All Purpose on your skin.
  • Wondercide makes natural tick and other insect-repellent products for people, pets, and homes.
  • Use Permethrin spray on your clothes and camping gear for tick repellent (also good for mosquitoes, chiggers, and other insects).
  • Put all clothing in a hot dryer for 15-20 minutes after coming in from outdoors. This will kill any remaining ticks on your clothes.
  • After being outside, always check your whole body thoroughly for any ticks, including belly buttons, underarms, groin areas, in and behind ears, behind knees, and between toes. 
  • Check pets for ticks, especially if they come indoors.

How To Properly Remove A Tick: 
  • Do not squeeze or twist the tick. Do not use soap, matches, lighters, Vaseline, nail polish remover, or other solutions to burn or smother it. This can actually cause the tick to regurgitate any bacteria or viruses it might be harboring into your bloodstream while it's still attached.
  • Use fine-tipped pointed tweezers to gently grasp the tick's head at the point of contact with the skin and firmly but slowly pull straight up and out. Make sure the head and mouth of the tick are entirely removed.
  • The Tick Key is excellent for tick removal, great for people and pets, and my personal favorite.
  • Dr. David Jernigan, DC, DNM, recommends using the TRIX Tick Remover. Click here to read more about this device and his article on the secret to proper tick removal. 
  • IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A TICK TESTED - place it in a plastic bag with a slightly moist paper towel. Label the bag with your name, date, and the site where the tick was attached. Call your local health department or find a lab or veterinarian that will test the tick for Lyme and any other tick-borne infections. Vets are very knowledgeable about tick and other vector-borne diseases. The Tick Encounter Resource Center lists several labs to identify and test ticks for Lyme and other tick-borne pathogens. Go here to read more. Or go to Tick Chek to learn about their tick testing services. 
  • Wash your hands and disinfect the site of the tick bite. 
  • Apply Silver to the bite right away; this serves as a natural antibiotic. SilverBiotics Gel is excellent (great for burns, cuts, and scraps too). It is beneficial if not necessary to take Silver by mouth for immune system support. I prefer Smart Silver or Silver Biotics. Both are liquid nano Silver, so their particles are smaller and more easily absorbed by the body. Also, Olive Leaf Extract is another excellent antimicrobial and immune support; it comes in liquid as well if you have trouble taking capsules. The key point is to stop any tick-borne bacteria or viruses from penetrating the body's defenses as soon as possible, and therefore, prevent deeper, more severe infection.
  • It may be prudent for you to get tested for Lyme and other tick-borne infections like Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, etc., by a doctor who uses one of the labs listed below.   

It is a fallacy that a tick must be attached 24-36 hours to a person before any transmission occurs. NOT TRUE. Any pathogens a tick might be carrying can be transmitted as soon as a person is bitten. Ticks have an anesthetic in their saliva that numbs the skin's surface, so you don't feel the bite. That is why many people never know they've been bitten.


Standard lab tests (ELISA and Western Blot) for Lyme disease are not highly accurate because they only check for antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) and do not test for all Lyme-specific proteins or bands. Therefore, these tests produce many false negatives. It's essential to be tested through a lab that uses DNA and antigen detection testing for Lyme.

IGeneX is a clinical and research testing laboratory for Lyme and tick-borne associated diseases and employs these important methods.

Advanced Labs Services is another good Lyme specialty lab, and some Lyme practitioners find it to offer the most superior Lyme testing available today.

Please go here to read more about different testing methods and specialty labs.

Remember, there are many other strains of Borrelia that cause Lyme or Lyme-like infections, but most conventional labs only check for Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb); that's 1 strain out of 100. Specifically, there are one hundred different strains of Borrelia in the USA. 

Ultimately, Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis. Lab tests are to be used as a diagnostic tool.

Helpful Resources: 

1 comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about ticks and lymes disease. I pray for a cure or at the least remission for you and everyone who has this horrible chronic disease. Wanda