Lyme disease can affect every part of the human body. Understanding how Lyme disease progresses and the varying symptoms in each stage can help you seek help before the symptoms become debilitating.
When a tick bites, it transmits bacteria from its bloodstream into a human’s bloodstream. The Lyme disease bacteria is Borrelia burgdorferi, which are very clever in defending themselves and avoiding being flushed out of a person’s system.
Stage 1 Lyme Disease: Early Localized
When foreign invaders, such as Lyme bacteria, are recognized in the body, the immune system activates inflammation to seek and destroy them. Usually, inflammation has no trouble traveling to the bacteria to flush it out, but Lyme bacteria create ways to go undetected by the inflammation. They form biofilms, or tiny shields that make them unrecognizable.
Symptoms in this stage include headaches, stiff neck, chills, fever, aches, and joint swelling.
Stage 2 Lyme Disease: Early Disseminated
Bacteria can multiply and begin spreading to other areas of the body, sending inflammation to other body parts. This happens in the early disseminated stage of Lyme disease. It is also in this stage where the nervous system is affected. The spread of spirochetes leads to:
- Meningeal seeding
- Lymphocytic/ monocytic meningitis
- Facial nerve palsy
Symptoms from stage 1 will also be present, only may feel worse than before.
Stage 3 Lyme Disease: Late Persistent
As Lyme disease goes without treatment, it spreads throughout the body, causing damage to vital organs and the central and peripheral nervous systems. Symptoms in this stage include numbness in the arms and legs, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, facial paralysis, and pain. Peripheral neuropathy and neurological Lyme disease are common diagnoses in this stage.
Crossing The Blood-Brain Barrier
Lyme bacteria can cross the blood-brain barrier, which triggers inflammation in the nervous system. When the nervous system is inflamed, it cannot regulate functioning. Below are known ways inflammation of the nervous system affects the body:
- Inflammation in the brain and spinal cord leads to severe headaches, nerve pain, memory loss, repeating questions or the same story, trouble recognizing people or places, and other cognitive impairments.
- Autonomic nervous system impairments lead to problems with the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. Symptoms include irregular heartbeats, changes in blood pressure, digestive issues, and abnormal sweating.
- Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) area of the nervous system malfunctions due to chronic stress, leading to miscommunication with the body’s stress response and causing weakness in the immune system.
- Healing from illnesses like Lyme disease requires restorative sleep, which is prevented by nervous system inflammation. In one study of people with chronic Lyme disease, nearly 41% had sleep impairments.
Nervous System Inflammation and Mental Health
Anyone with chronic Lyme disease can experience mental health effects of nervous system inflammation. Too often, doctors do not make the connection between Lyme disease and mental health symptoms and treat the symptoms with antidepressants. Treating Lyme disease simultaneously will create better outcomes. Symptoms that signal nervous system inflammation from Lyme disease include the following:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Aggression or rage
- Attention deficits
- Obsessions or compulsions
- Social anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts
- Bipolar disorder
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Eating disorders
Treatment of Nervous System Inflammation
Reducing and eliminating inflammation in the nervous system caused by Lyme disease begins with antibiotic treatments. Doctors usually prescribe oral Doxycycline for several weeks. Unfortunately, the biofilms that allow bacteria to hide from the immune system can also protect them from antibiotics. If even one spirochete is left in your system, it can reproduce and start multiplying again.
The key to treatment success is working with a doctor specializing in Lyme disease and all other rare diseases and infections. Sometimes called a Lyme-literate doctor, they have modern techniques and equipment to ensure you get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
To find a Lyme-literate doctor, search worldwide resources. Your goal is to find the best doctor, not the closest. Search the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society website. Don’t hesitate to travel to another country, like Mexico, to get the most effective treatments.
What To Expect in Treating Nervous System Inflammation
A Lyme-literate doctor will first determine the source of your nervous system inflammation to confirm if it is Lyme disease or another infection. They use advanced testing methods that include analyzing your blood under a microscope.
Cerebrospinal Fluid Test
If you have nervous system inflammation, your doctor will perform a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) test. The test is also called a spinal tap or lumbar puncture. Your fluid will be tested, and if you get a positive result, Lyme disease antibodies will be in your spinal fluid. If the number of antibodies in your spinal fluid is more than in your blood, Lyme disease has spread to your nervous system and is causing inflammation.
Oral antibiotics may be ineffective, especially for those fighting chronic Lyme disease. Lyme literate doctors will utilize alternative treatments for nervous system inflammation caused by Lyme disease, including the following:
- Intravenous antibiotic therapies send the total dose of antibiotics directly into the bloodstream, where Lyme bacteria exist.
- Biofilm eradication eliminates the shields built by bacteria for protection so the antibiotics and the immune system can eliminate the bacteria from the bloodstream.
- Therapeutic apheresis removes infected, unhealthy blood and plasma from your system and replaces it with donated healthy blood and plasma.
- Hyperthermia raises the body’s temperature to a fever point that effectively fights bacteria and slowly reduces the fever.
- Detox therapies
- Nutritional supplements
Lyme disease is a serious condition that impacts the entire body, including the nervous system. Reducing inflammation must occur to relieve painful and debilitating symptoms. Working with a Lyme-literate doctor is the best way to access modern treatments.
It’s also important to note that Lyme disease can be prevented by taking a few simple steps, such as wearing protective clothing when you know you will be outdoors in an area where ticks may exist.
For information on nervous system inflammation, treatments, or prevention, contact Lyme Mexico for an online consultation.