Lyme disease in humans occurs when a deer tick infected with the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi attaches itself to the body. The tick then travels around the body, searching for a good spot to embed itself under the skin. Ticks can take up to 48 hours to find the right spot. Often, reports refer to this as being bitten by a tick. However, ticks do not bite the outside of a person’s skin. They hunt for blood since that is what they feed on and how they survive. Rather than bite, they break open the skin and dig down until they reach your bloodstream. Once there, they transmit the Lyme bacteria into your bloodstream, where it begins to multiply and travel through the body. Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease, meaning it is transmitted from insect to human. There is no evidence that Lyme disease can be transmitted from human to human, not even through sexual activity, as other sexually transmitted diseases may occur.
What is a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) refer to infections passed on from one human to another through oral, vaginal, or anal sexual activity. Some STDs, like herpes, live on the skin’s surface and can be transmitted from skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 20 STDs, but the most common include chlamydia, genital herpes, HPV, syphilis, and HIV/AIDS. STDs can produce uncomfortable symptoms, including sores, discharge, painful urination, itching, bleeding, and swelling in the area infected. Not everyone will have symptoms. Also, not all STDs can be cured.
How Prevalent are STDs?
STD statistics for America, provided by the CDC, in 2019 are alarming. There were over 1.8 million reports of chlamydia, over 616,000 reports of gonorrhea, and over 129,000 cases of syphilis. The CDC also reports there are approximately 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease contracted annually. The most alarming STD statistic is that of newborn syphilis. More than 2,000 new reports of newborns born with congenital syphilis in 2020. This means STDs can be transmitted from in utero, from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, or during the birthing process. Can the same thing happen with Lyme disease? Can pregnant mothers with Lyme disease pass the infection to their unborn babies?
Is There a Connection Between Lyme Disease and STDs?
It makes sense that someone may assume Lyme disease could be transmitted from human to human. STDs are caused by infections, just like Lyme disease. Viruses and parasites can also cause STDS. When an infected tick transmits Lyme bacteria to a human, it can also transmit co-infections and microscopic parasites. Babesia is a good example of a co-infection that may host parasites. Once parasites are in your bloodstream, Lyme bacteria use them to hide from anything trying to destroy them, like antibiotics. Lyme disease does share similarities with some STDs, specifically syphilis.
Lyme Disease and Syphilis
Lyme disease is called “the great imitator” because it can create symptoms that mimic other conditions. In the world of STDs, syphilis is also a great imitator. The symptoms of syphilis mimic that of Lyme disease and vice versa, plus the many other disorders of which they often get misdiagnosed. Symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, fever, muscle aches, and joint pain. For example, most cases of syphilis and Lyme present a noticeable mark, signaling a problem. Lyme disease, a red bullseye rash appears on the skin of many people within the first 90 days after being infected. As for, Syphilis, a sore appears in the area that contacted the disease. This is in the genital area, and for others, it is around the mouth. Sores will appear within the first 90 days after infection.
Other similarities include the following:
- Treated with antibiotics
- Progress in stages, from early to late
- Can cause long-term mental and physical problems if left untreated
- Possible problems during pregnancy, like miscarriage
- Both can cause mood swings
As mentioned, there are 20 sexually transmitted diseases to date. Interestingly, there are 20 tick-borne diseases to date, according to the Lyme Disease Association (LDA), Inc. The LDA also reports there have been several studies in which researchers found Lyme bacteria in bodily fluids such as semen, cervical tissue, vaginal secretions, breast milk, and the placenta of a pregnant woman.
Researchers disagree on whether Lyme disease is a sexually transmitted disease. Some argue that transmission should also be similar because the syphilis bacteria and Lyme bacteria are so similar. There is no evidence that this is true, however.
Treatments for Lyme Disease and STDs
Lyme disease and sexually transmitted diseases are treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, the disorders can worsen and become inflammatory. Each STD can be further treated if complications arise, like antibiotic resistance. For example, medications are available to limit the spread of herpes and control flareups. Alternative treatments are available from specialists, like Lyme-literate physicians. Anti-viral and anti-parasitic protocols, along with IV vitamin infusions, oral supplements, and nutraceuticals, can be combined or used alone to treat Lyme disease and some STDs. Treatments currently being studied include propolis, a sticky substance produced by bees, and algae extract to treat herpes. Medical marijuana to ease the symptoms of all diseases, including Lyme disease. Yoga, meditation, and acupuncture for use as supplemental therapy. Prevention is always the best tool for dealing with Lyme disease or STDs.
Prevention of Lyme Disease and STDs
Prevention starts with protection. To prevent Lyme disease, it’s essential you wear protective clothing and shoes when you are spending time outdoors, in an environment where ticks thrive, like on a hiking trail where there is tall, brushy grass. To prevent STDs, you must also protect yourself. Get to know sexual partners well before engaging in sex and get tested for STDs. Wear internal and external condoms. Get vaccinations that are available and have a history of success. Don’t risk your health for a few hours of fun. Do what you can to prevent disease.