Can Lyme disease kill you? Here is what you should know about this question.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed health insurance reports to find that over 476,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with Lyme disease. This number is likely higher due to doctors misdiagnosing someone’s symptoms, people not seeking treatment for their symptoms, and faulty testing protocols.
Antibiotics are the first and often only line of treatment. When caught early, like as soon as you see a bullseye rash anywhere on your body. Because only 70% to 80% of people will get a bullseye rash, it is crucial to pay attention and know which symptoms can represent Lyme disease.
Early Lyme Disease Symptoms
Lyme disease is called “the great imitator” because the symptoms resemble those of many other conditions. For example, flu-like symptoms like chills, fever, cold sweats, stiff neck, swollen lymph nodes, feeling tired, and sore throat are very common in Lyme disease but often get diagnosed as the flu or a virus.
Even if your general practitioner suspects it could be Lyme disease, the tests available are more inaccurate than they are accurate. The reason is that they only test for the antibodies associated with Lyme bacteria.
The problem is that Lyme bacteria are super smart. They know how to hide within cell linings, go inactive or dormant to avoid detection, and build individual biofilms surrounding each bacterium.
Whether due to these reasons or someone made a mistake, Lyme disease symptoms persist and worsen if left untreated.
Mid-to-Late Lyme Disease Symptoms
Symptoms in the second and third stages include headaches, additional rashes, facial palsy, arthritis, and joint pain. The areas of pain may swell and create even more pain.
Nerve pain, brain, and spinal cord inflammation, numbness, and tingling in your limbs, fingers, or toes. Many people with Lyme disease struggle with extreme fatigue that interferes with daily functioning. Muscles and joints ache, depression and anxiety appear, and you may experience facial paralysis. Memory, concentration, focus, and attention suffer. Sleep disturbances include insomnia or oversleeping.
Unfortunately, misdiagnoses still happen at these later stages. When this happens, you are at higher risk of developing Lyme disease symptoms that can be more detrimental to your health, like Lyme carditis.
Those who passed away due to Lyme disease most likely suffered from Lyme carditis.
Lyme carditis is a bacterial infection of the heart caused by Lyme disease. It interferes with the heart’s electrical system, causing the heart to function irregularly. A heart block can occur since the electrical signals are too slow, and some may not reach the bottom chambers of the heart from the top chambers.
There are three stages of Lyme carditis: mild or first degree, moderate or second degree, and severe or third degree. With first-degree Lyme carditis, electrical signals reach the bottom chambers of the heart, but they do so much slower than needed.
With second-degree Lyme carditis, electrical signals get close to reaching the bottom chambers of the heart but not all the way. With third-degree Lyme carditis, electrical signals do not reach the bottom chambers.
Symptoms of Lyme Carditis
If the electrical signals are not reaching the top and bottom chambers of your heart, you can experience a lack of oxygen and less blood flow, both of which can lead to feeling:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
The worst-case scenario is that you experience cardiac arrest. Lyme carditis is treatable and, depending on severity, may require a pacemaker.
Other Ways Lyme Disease Can Harm You
Getting Lyme disease does not equal death. If you can get your Lyme disease diagnosed and treated correctly, you can live a long, healthy, symptom-free life.
When Lyme disease goes untreated or misdiagnosed, the symptoms continue to develop, and the infection spreads to more parts of your body. Depending on which parts of the body are affected, it can increase your risk for more serious, life-threatening conditions. Below are some examples of this progression.
Example 1: Mental Health
According to a study led by Columbia University, psychiatric symptoms of Lyme disease become more apparent after the first year. Their study compared patients diagnosed with Lyme disease in an inpatient, outpatient, or emergency room department with patients who did not receive a diagnosis of Lyme disease. Results showed the patients diagnosed with Lyme disease had a 28% higher rate of mental illness and were two times more likely to attempt suicide after they were infected.
Example 2: Cancer
Research through Envita cancer centers shows a link between bacterial infections, chronic diseases, and cancer. When studying their patients, many of them with late-stage cancer test positive for Lyme disease and the co-infections associated with Lyme disease.
When you have a healthy immune system, it fights and destroys cancer cells daily. An unhealthy immune system becomes exhausted trying to fight infections and cannot protect you effectively. It allows cell DNA to degrade. This then allows cancerous cells to grow. Lyme disease suppresses your immune system and encourages the growth of tumors in three different ways: inflammation, depressing the immune system and changing the DNA of healthy cells.
Example 3: Hormones
Hormonal imbalances can also increase your risk for physical disorders, including cancers. Lyme disease affects your adrenal, thyroid, and sex hormones. It typically lowers the amount of hormone production in these vital body parts, leading to a weakened immune system and susceptibility to multiple bacterial infections.
Cortisol, testosterone, and other hormones fight inflammation and support the immune system. In Lyme disease, however, hormone production is suppressed. As a result, you may experience minor and major illnesses. It can also cause weight gain, especially in the mid-section, near the heart. Weight gain and obesity stress the entire body. It affects oxygen intake, blood flow, and the immune system.
While Lyme disease cannot cause your death directly, it can lead to many conditions that are considered life-altering and even fatal for some people.
To learn how to avoid these more serious conditions, reach out today to a Lyme-literate doctor to treat your Lyme disease.