One out of every one hundred people with Lyme disease will experience heart block, also known as Lyme carditis. This translates to between one and five percent of Americans with Lyme infection.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have only been eleven fatal cases since 1985. That doesn’t mean you should not worry about Lyme carditis. You should.
Learning the most about the disorder will help you recognize the symptoms and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Lyme Carditis Explained
Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria transmitted from deer ticks to humans. The bacterial infection enters the bloodstream and begins to multiply and spread throughout the body. The infection triggers the body’s immune response, inflammation to fight the infection.
As the infection spreads to joints, muscles, tendons, and tissues, those areas become inflamed, leaving you with a lot of pain and soreness. The body stays in a constant state of inflammation until the Lyme bacteria become inactive or are eliminated from your body using antibiotics and other advanced treatments.
On a rare occasion, Lyme carditis occurs, which happens when the infection spreads to the heart. As the Lyme infection enters your heart tissue, inflammation follows. Inflamed heart tissue can disrupt electrical signals sent from the upper chambers to the heart’s lower chambers. Lyme infection can also spread to membranes, muscles, blood vessels, and valves.
Lyme bacteria in the heart tissue, or any other part of the heart, can produce different levels of symptom severity.
Degrees of Lyme Carditis
Like all other Lyme disease symptoms, they can be mild, moderate, or severe. Lyme literate doctors define these as first, second, or third degrees of Lyme carditis, with third-degree being the most severe.
With mild or first-degree Lyme carditis, electrical signals reach the heart’s lower chambers, but they do so much slower than needed. With second-degree or moderate heart block, electrical signals reach the bottom chamber but not as much as they should.
Severe or third-degree heart block means electrical signals never reach the bottom chambers of the heart.
Anytime electrical signals cannot reach the heart’s lower chambers, arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest can occur because the heart cannot beat normally.
Recognizing symptoms of all three degrees is crucial.
Diagnosing Lyme Carditis
If you have Lyme disease symptoms and visit your family doctor, they will likely order blood testing for the ELISA or Western Blot tests, the only two available in America currently. These tests are only about 50% accurate, however. They test for antibodies of Lyme disease, which aren’t always active. If you take the test when they are inactive, you could receive a negative result.
Your doctor will assume you do not have Lyme disease when you could still have it. They may treat you with a round of antibiotics to make sure.
More accurate diagnosing can happen with a Lyme literate doctor, a medical doctor specializing in Lyme disease. They can analyze your blood under a microscope to detect infection, as well as advanced blood testing.
To test further for Lyme carditis, they will use echocardiograms and MRIs of the heart. Then, they will create a treatment plan that includes antibiotics but also goes one step further.
The symptoms of Lyme carditis can appear at the same time as other Lyme symptoms or separately. You may feel fever, headaches, stiff neck, and fatigue. A clear sign of Lyme disease is the bullseye-shaped rash that can appear anywhere on the body in the days following a tick bite.
It’s important to note that you can still have Lyme disease even if you don’t get a rash.
Specific Lyme carditis symptoms include heart palpitations, chest pains, shortness of breath, fainting, dizziness, or feeling light-headed.
Symptoms can start appearing as soon as one week after contracting Lyme disease. Too often, Lyme disease is misdiagnosed and goes untreated for too long. Symptoms may increase in severity and become chronic.
Getting the correct diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible is a must.
Treatment of Lyme Carditis
Antibiotics treat Lyme disease, including carditis, when given in longer and stricter doses. Three weeks is usually the minimum time for antibiotic treatment. Lyme literate doctors know to ask patients about cardiac symptoms. They follow antibiotics with the most advanced treatments available. And they have the modern equipment to complete the treatment in their office.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a temporary pacemaker may be needed to regulate heartbeats.
Advanced Treatment of Lyme Disease
Lyme-literate doctors are often researchers and contributors to international societies on Lyme disease. They have the most up-to-date information and opportunities for treating Lyme disease, including Lyme carditis.
Therapeutic apheresis has a success rate in helping people feel better shortly after treatment. Apheresis can be done with blood or plasma. It is the process of removing infected, unhealthy blood or plasma from your body and replacing it with healthy, donated blood or plasma.
Intravenous (IV) therapies provide your body with antibiotics and immune-boosting nutrients. Rather than give you oral antibiotics or vitamins that get broken down while traveling through the digestive system, your doctor can administer them directly into your bloodstream. The antibiotics begin immediately fighting Lyme bacteria where they live.
IV therapies can also be used with anti-parasitic and anti-viral protocols combined with detox methods that can flush the Lyme bacteria from your system. For the more stubborn bacteria, the ones that hide from antibiotics, it may be necessary to use biofilm eradication protocols. Antimicrobials break down the walls protecting bacteria, so elimination is successful.
Lyme carditis is very treatable once accurately diagnosed. If you think you may have symptoms of Lyme carditis or Lyme disease, don’t wait to seek help. Days and weeks count when treating any stage of Lyme disease. Reach out to a Lyme literate doctor today to share your symptoms and develop a plan of action. Find the right doctor, not the nearest or cheapest doctor, who can administer treatment that works.