To understand what to expect with Lyme disease antibiotic treatment, learning more about the Lyme bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and what it does to the body is essential. Knowing this will help you understand why antibiotics are necessary for Lyme disease treatment.
Lyme disease occurs through a specific process. A deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, becomes infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria by feeding on an animal host with the bacteria. Deer ticks grow in egg, larvae, nymph, and adult stages. During the nymph and adult stages, it’s possible for a deer tick to attach to a human host.
Once the tick finds a suitable location on your body to feed, it will break your skin and bury its head in search of your bloodstream. As it feeds, it transmits the bacteria associated with Lyme disease.
Bacteria in the Body
The human body contains numerous bacteria, some good and some bad, in various shapes and sizes. They are microscopic and not visible to the human eye. At one time, researchers claimed bacteria outnumbered human cells in the body. Today, some researchers say the numbers are likely about the same. It is estimated that people have well over 30 million of each. Only a small number of bacteria cause disease.
Bacteria can be spherical, rodlike, or curved. Lyme bacteria is curved and often referred to as spirochete. Bacteria adapt well to most environments, including the human body. Soon after they enter the body, they begin reproducing and multiplying. Some reports state that bacteria reproduce every 20 to 30 minutes. They also start to travel to different locations in the body. If a bacterium is infected, it will spread the infection.
Bacterial Infections in the Body
For bacteria to become an infection that makes you sick, it must make it through various stages, including the following:
- Exposure, where bacteria must enter your body, bloodstream, and tissues. With Lyme disease, being bitten by a deer tick exposes bacteria to your bloodstream and tissues.
- Adhesion, or how the bacteria bind to the cells of your tissues. Lyme disease bacteria create biofilms, like tiny shields that make it harder for your body’s immune system to find and get rid of them. They are protected as they start multiplying.
- Invasion occurs as bacteria multiply and spread throughout the body. As they spread, they damage as many tissues as possible, making your immune system weaker and themselves stronger.
- Infections occur when bacteria successfully multiply and spread throughout the body. Infections can be local, focal, or systemic. Unfortunately, with Lyme disease, all three types may exist. A local infection is the spot where bacteria enter your body. A sign of infection is a bullseye rash surrounding the bite.
Focal infections are those that spread to a second spot in the body. With Lyme disease, this is likely your joints. Systemic infections spread throughout the body, which can happen with chronic Lyme disease, affecting physical and mental health.
First-Line Antibiotic Treatments
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for bacterial infections such as Lyme disease. Antibiotics are powerful medicines that either stop bacterial growth or destroy them. Antibiotics can be specialized or broad-spectrum. For Lyme disease, doctors typically prescribe a broad-spectrum type.
Antibiotics have two classifications, bactericidal and bacteriostatic. Both types are used to treat Lyme disease. Bacteriostatic antibiotics include tetracyclines such as Doxycycline. Bactericidal antibiotics include Beta-lactams, like amoxicillin, cefuroxime, and ceftriaxone.
You may be instructed to take more than one oral dose daily to treat Lyme disease.
Second-line antibiotics may prove to be more effective. Some doctors choose the antibiotic benzathine penicillin, and some opt for macrolide antibiotics like azithromycin and clarithromycin.
Many general practitioners prescribe antibiotics in pill form for up to 14 days. This is not aggressive enough for many to prevent Lyme spirochete from reproducing, especially when biofilms protect them from detection.
More effective antibiotic treatments are available, typically from Lyme-literate doctors specializing in bacterial infections and coinfections.
Intravenous Antibiotic Treatments
Taking an antibiotic orally must pass through your digestive system, where some of the medicine is degraded due to stomach acids. Antibiotics then enter your bloodstream and travel around the body, searching for bacteria.
Lyme-literate doctors recommend intravenous antibiotic treatments. When administered intravenously, the body absorbs the total dose, sending more powerful medicine to eliminate spirochete. It works faster than an oral version.
Ceftriaxone is the first antibiotic choice for many doctors using intravenous treatments for Lyme disease. However, a combination of IV antibiotics may be more effective for those with neurological symptoms, long-lasting arthritis, heart issues, and other chronic Lyme symptoms. Some doctors understand that taking antibiotics for longer than two weeks may benefit some people, and they prescribe them for 21 to 30 days.
Lyme-literate doctors integrate cutting-edge, non-invasive treatments to supplement antibiotic therapy.
Complementary Treatments to Antibiotics
Why rely on one treatment to eliminate Lyme disease when you can use multiple methods? A long list of integrative therapies is known to help you overcome Lyme disease. The most commonly used by Lyme-literate doctors as a supplement to antibiotics include the following:
- Biofilm eradication helps destroy the biofilms protecting bacteria, exposing them to your immune system and antibiotics.
- Plasmapheresis is a process of exchanging your infected plasma for healthy plasma. This procedure is especially helpful in easing auto-immune symptoms like inflammation.
- Therapeutic apheresis removes infected blood and replaces it with donated healthy blood.
- Red cell exchange is particularly effective in fighting coinfections to Lyme disease.
- Detoxing the toxins from the body is crucial and must be done safely, under supervision.
After Lyme Disease Antibiotic Treatment
Successful antibiotic treatments can happen but don’t end your effort to remain free of Lyme disease. Anyone can get Lyme disease more than once. Therefore, Lyme disease prevention should be a priority.
Prevention involves being aware of your surroundings, wearing protective clothing and repellents, conducting tick checks, and staying educated on Lyme disease. You and your Lyme-literate doctor can create a treatment and prevention plan that fits your unique needs and lifestyle.
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